SPD postal worker unsinkable | TheUnion.com

SPD postal worker unsinkable

John HartMary Woods works at the U.S. Postal Service counter at SPD on McKnight Way in Grass Valley Thursday.
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Proud Mary keeps on burnin’.

Mary Woods enlivens the days of postal customers at Grass Valley’s SPD Market. And she only had to leave retirement, fight cancer and recover from a paralyzing illness to do it.

Woods, 58, came back from retirement from the U.S. Post Office to work at the contract station in the grocery store.

“I love the work. I love the customers,” Woods said.

The feeling’s mutual, if you stop people waiting in line.

“She’s a worker,” said customer Ruth Smith of Alta Sierra. “On the ball always.”

Sue Martin of Grass Valley said she comes to the contract station in the popular market because “it’s friendlier and faster.”

Woods wears an Independent Grocers Association name tag that declares SPD employees to be “Hometown Proud.”

And proud she is to work both for the post office and in SPD Market, particularly since they’ve seen her through tough times.

Four years ago – “Dec. 2, 1996. I’ll never forget it,” Woods says – she arrived to work at 8:30 a.m. at her post office job. By 2 p.m., Woods was paralyzed from the rib cage down. Supervisors at work drove her home.

Doctors discovered Woods had been stricken with transverse myelitis, a first cousin to multiple sclerosis. The disease is a neurological syndrome caused by inflammation of the spinal cord, and often leaves people paralyzed.

Woods was confined to a wheelchair at one point and was offered disability compensation, which she declined.

She recalls sitting on her back deck overlooking Highway 49, thinking “how fortunate people were to be able to get in a car and drive.”

“I thought, ‘I’m gonna’ do that someday,'” Woods said.

With the help of physical therapy, Woods went back to work gradually in March the following year, starting back at two hours a day. Within nine months, Woods was back to working an eight-hour day.

“The post office was really cool,” Woods recalled. “SPD was good to me during my recovery. SPD’s just been awesome.”

Although she’s back at work and out of a wheelchair, Woods doesn’t want to raise hopes for sufferers that recovery is ever 100 percent.

Doctors don’t have a clue how much you’ll recover, Woods warns. “But it’s not a death sentence,” she said.

“I look back on it now, I did pretty damn good, but I fatigue easily,” she said philosophically. “I’ll probably never be a rock climber.”

Woods moved to Grass Valley in July 1996 to join her children, Margie Leatherman, 40, of Grass Valley; Michelle Woods, 39, of Roseville; Don Woods, 37, of Grass Valley, another cancer survivor, and Dan Woods, 33, of Grass Valley. Her eight grandchildren range in age from nine months to 23 years old.

Most of her 30 years with the post office were spent in Southern California towns of San Gabriel, Upland, Ontario and Claremont. She misses the restaurants and beaches, but said she didn’t know “places like Grass Valley existed.”

“I’m really happy here,” Woods said.

Each week, The Union profiles one of your friends or neighbors. It might be the supermarket checker, the beer truck driver, or the fellow down the street with the green thumb. If you have ideas on someone you would like to read about, just give the newsroom a call at 273-9561.

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