Providence Bay post office under review as postmaster retires

As of December 30, 2022 Providence Bay residents have been missing the familiar and friendly face of Eleanor Lentir when she retires after approximately two decades of service with Canada Post. She’s been in charge of the Providence Bay location since 2018, back when the post office was still located at Calvin Pearson’s.

Ms. Lentir recently received an acknowledgment letter for 20 years of service from Canada Post, but that did not include early days when she filled in at locations around the Island. She was recruited originally by Betty Jean Bailey, who operated the post office in South Baymouth. Ms. Lentir filled in for Ms. Bailey in South Baymouth but also helped out in Tehkummah, Kagawong, Gore Bay and Little Current until she settled in at Providence Bay, taking over as postmaster after Diane Kay transferred to Mindemoya. Ms. Kay was the Providence Bay postmaster from 2005 until 2018.

“You meet a lot of people,” Ms. Lentir said. “People come in to visit. It’s not always about a stamp. It’s a social hub and a very, very important part of our community. We’ve done our best to service the people and I’ve enjoyed it.” “I’ve had a good run,” she added. “I’ll be 76 this December and it’s just time to do a few other things while I have the health to do it.”

As a long-time supporter and volunteer with the Michael’s Bay Historical Society, Ms. Lentir is looking forward to working with the group now that the government has cleared the property for purchase. She will continue to volunteer in her home community of South Baymouth as well. “I do quite a bit there when they’re having their summer activities,” she said. “We all jump in and help one another out. There’s a lot of laughs and we just have a good time working together and building our community.”

She’ll still be involved in the Providence Bay community. “With the suppers or whatever,” she said. “I’ll still be part of my village. I want to reach out and spend some time on the projects I’ve had my fingers in. You get to a point at my age. It’s just time to step back and enjoy my family, which is number one, and then work within my communities. I just don’t want to get myself bogged down and take on too much.”

Canada Post has emailed the Municipality of Central Manitoulin, Mayor Richard Stephens confirmed. “They advised us that Eleanor was retiring and that they were rethinking their strategy for Providence Bay. Basically, they provided us with three options and we picked option three, which was we retain the post office in Providence Bay and continue as per normal.”

The corporation wrote back, thanking Mayor Stephens for his input. “They said it would be forwarded to those that make the final decision and we will be advised accordingly,” he said.

A Canada Post representative told the mayor that anytime there is a change, there is a re-evaluation of the need and cost savings that goes into the changeover. “They’re just doing their due diligence, which is normal and understandable,” said Mayor Stephens. “But they did approach me and say they wanted input from the community to help them make their decision and we appreciated that. There was no timeline given for a decision. We’re in the waiting room at this time. Basically, I don’t have any concrete information. We’ve given them our information and our request and we have to wait for their next move.”

Ms. Lentir believes the Providence Bay location will remain open, although no replacement has yet been named (a temporary replacement has been hired). “I’m really pleased,” she said. “Even though I’m retiring, in 2024, which isn’t too far away, our village will be celebrating 150 years of having a post officer here (in the village).”

There’s going to be a party, she said. “We’re hoping to do something that summer. I’m happy and content that they will keep the post office going and then we can have our celebration and carry on from there. It’s pretty unique.”

Mayor Stephens agreed that it is important to maintain the Providence Bay post office in the community. “Any discussions or contacts I’ve had with people that use it, they think it’s needed,” he said. “Even the local postmistress and those that are dealing with her are quite adamant that it’s a needed service and needs to continue.”

He also indicated to Canada Post that in 2024, it will be 150 years since the post office opened in Providence Bay. “We did indicate that in our reply to them, that we were looking forward to it being around to celebrate the 150th anniversary,” he said. “It’s my job to work for the needs of my community and I’m quite confident we’ve got the right position and I’m going to work toward keeping it open and available to the community.”

Lori Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Manitoulin Expositor