Since he retired from the U.S. Postal Service in November, Don Ciavarra has been staying busy on the 13 acres he and his wife, Kathryn, live on west of town. He’s been cleaning up, building fence and working in their garden.
After joining the Postal Service in 1974 as a letter carrier in Denver, Ciavarra moved to Steamboat in 1980, when he quickly became the friendly face patrons see at the post office window.
“I was lucky,” he says about transferring to Steamboat.
Back then, the post office was in the Old Pilot Building on Lincoln Avenue downtown. You can tell which building by the flagpole that still sits outside.
“A lot of people had to use general delivery,” he says about the lack of post office boxes. “Steamboat was growing so fast.”
Then the post office moved into the building it now occupies downtown and added more boxes, so more people had a reason to go to there. “That was what I enjoyed most,” Ciavarra says about interacting with customers at the window. “My bosses probably didn’t like it. But the customers enjoyed it, and it made the job more interesting.”
Ciavarra also worked a number of years at the recently closed Sundance Plaza substation. “It kind of bummed me out when they closed it,” Ciavarra says. “There were only three or four of us out there, and we all got along really well.”
One of those was colleague Eva Stewart. “Don was trying hard to keep it,” she says. “And he did it so diplomatically and eloquently.”
As for interacting with customers, she says that’s where he truly shined. “It’s a grueling job, one customer after another,” she says. “It’s mentally tiring, and it’s hard to have a good attitude all day. But every day, Don would treat the first to last customer with dignity and respect. He’d find the right answer even if he had to call someone back the next day.”
“Getting to see people was the best part,” Ciavarra admits. “The window part is what kept me going.”
But, he says, the time was right for him to leave. “I’m getting used to retirement and loving it,” he says. “Our youngest daughter had twins. They’re almost 2 right now. We get to spend a lot of time with them.”
All told, he and Kathryn, who also is retired, have seven children and 13 grandchildren, four of whom live in Steamboat. There also are grandchildren to visit in Denver, Detroit and Austin.
But there’s always time for softball, which he’s been playing since his second year here. He’s gathered a few championships, he says, but the most fun part is simply being part of a team, just like at the post office. He’s also thinking of dabbling in golf and tennis and traveling across Colorado, where he’ll likely meet new friends just like he did at the window downtown.
“A lot of people just like him,” Stewart says.