This piece originally appeared in the Asbury Collegian.
For the last 36 years, Doris Adams has been a fixture of Asbury’s Campus Post Office. Each time she slides open the window, the threshold between the small CPO inner workings and the hallway, her familiar bespectacled face greets students who are eager to exchange their purple or yellow notifications for packages. In each transaction, it’s obvious that for Adams, it’s about more than the mail. Soon, trips to CPO will be different, as she is retiring in December. The exact date of her retirement has yet to be determined.
Adams took some classes at Asbury but never as a traditional student. She went to what was then called Jessamine County High School (now West Jessamine) before entering the working world. Many of her family members have also worked for Asbury: her brother and sister are currently working for Asbury’s physical plant. Together, all of Adams’ family has put in over 500 years of service to the institution.
Her love for the campus came at an early age because of Beverly Hamlin, a student who reached out to Adams. “She would come and get me and sometimes my sister, and we went to church with them,” said Adams. “I got to know the Lord and was saved.” Hamlin invested in Adams outside of church, too. “She came and took me to the dorm one day and made me feel like a queen because she did my hair,” said Adams. “She’d take me around campus and show me the different things, and that’s how I fell in love with Asbury’s Campus.”
Initially, when Adams worked for Asbury, she worked at the Asbury Guest House, which is now Sarah Johnson dorm. She worked there for four years before taking a job at CPO in 1978. In 1981, she took over as post office manager, the position she currently holds.
After a year of working at Asbury, Adams contacted the alumni office to see if she could get Hamlin’s address so she could thank her for all she had done. She was startled to find out that Hamlin had died in an accident and wrote a letter of appreciation to Hamlin’s family. Adams later got to know Carol Coulliette, Hamlin’s sister, and the two still stay in touch.
“When I see Doris, I see who my sister was,” said Coulliette. “She wanted to be Jesus’ hands and feet, and she was. I’m challenged in my Christian walk to look for the Dorises around me.”
Over the years, she’s seen many CPO pranks. “Anything you can think of, they will do it,” she said. “Somebody sent Harold Rainwater a box of manure, and some girl got a box of fat from the cafeteria… some guy mailed himself to a girl one time, and he went in there and waited one and a half to two hours and she finally came… it was so funny. It was Valentine’s Day, and he mailed himself to his sweetheart.”
Adams has even witnessed a proposal directly in front of the CPO window. “This one student had ordered a ring, and when it came in, the girl was there, and he was opening the package,” she said. The girl was talking to Adams at the counter while he got ready. He then proposed. “That was so neat,” said Adams. “I was shocked that it went off without a hitch.”
Across the hallway from her window perch is a bulletin board of scattered images of CPO memories and graduations gone by. Among the images is a picture of her grandson, junior Berry Houp, as a baby above the words “Class of 2015.” In another section of the board, there’s another member of the “Class of 2015:” Adams herself. “I’m the little girl. I was going to leave in 2015, but my health is just not good,” she said. “My diabetes is really bothering my legs, so I thought I better go on so I can take care of me and get myself together.”
“40 years on concrete and having diabetes is not good on feet,” said Adams. To covertly combat her pain, Adams wears slippers. “I bought a pair, and they’ve about had it, but Levon [Gothay] bought me these,” she said, waving a different pair of pink and black slippers. “But they’re so obvious,” she added.
Senior Levon Gothay is one of many student workers Adams has had over her career. Each of the workers becomes a part of the CPO family. “We are a whole family in here,” said Adams. “We all work together. We get to know [the student workers], spoil them, try to help if they’re hurting by talking to them, giving them a hug or something.” She still keeps up with some of her past student workers, but it’s hard for Adams to see them go. “I cry my eyes out every time it happens,” she said.
The familial bonds are tight. “Doris has a passion for her job, she has a heart for others and a she has made me feel like one of her own family,” said Gothay, who has worked in CPO for three years. Another student worker, junior Will McBride, has worked at CPO since his freshman year. His father also worked at CPO for some of his time at Asbury. McBride appreciates Adams’ tough love. “I love when Doris gets irritated at me and gives me an earful because she’s always apologetic and forgiving, and it makes me laugh,” said McBride. “I also like it when she randomly sings along to the radio.”
Both Adams and Cecile Powers, assistant mail clerk, try to celebrate each of the student workers’ birthdays as well as Christmas. “It’s our gift for them because we can’t afford gifts,” she said. “I have no savings, and it’s just something I’ve never been able to do because when my husband left, he left me with a bunch of bills. I feel bad that I’m not able to do more, but I can’t. I’m extremely poor, but I feel bad because every time I say something to somebody, I feel like I’m begging, and I don’t mean to do that. It’s my life.”
Adams is appreciative of all of the anonymous gifts she has received. “I don’t know who did it, and I try to thank everyone who comes by and tell them, ‘have a nice day’ or something,” she said. While she’s looking forward to many aspects of retirement, her biggest fear remains: being able to pay her mortgage. A group of students have recognized Adams’ need and have formed a Facebook group, Letters for Doris, to organize anonymous letters of encouragement and some gifts. The group recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to help her cover expenses.
The love between Adams and the Asbury student body goes both ways. Every Friday, junior Micah Maurin comes to the window for his Friday hug. The two got to know each other over the summer and made a deal to exchange hugs each Friday. “If it’s Friday, I know why he’s here, and if he misses, he catches up,” Adams said.
“It is probably the one act that sums up the whole of my relationship with Doris,” said Maurin. “Every time I give her the hug, it makes her so happy, and she loves to brag to people about me being ‘one of her boys.’… Although I am not much of a hugging person, I started giving her the hugs because she really enjoyed them, but now I enjoy the tradition just as much as she does.”
December is quickly approaching, and the CPO family has bittersweet feelings about Adams’ upcoming retirement. “We’ll miss her being around,” said Powers. “She’s been here a long time and deserves it.”
While Adams thinks she’ll cry all day on her last day, she knows her retirement plans. “First I’ll rest and get my body healthier, get my house cleaned up and then come visit the students,” she said.