The Radiant Post Office met a major milestone last week. On March 18, the tiny rural post office marked its 135th year of service to Madison County residents.
For the past 135 years those residents have been able to purchase postage, send and receive mail and catch up on the latest neighborhood gossip at the post office which is located just off Route 230 halfway between Orange and Madison. Once one of five post offices within the southern part of the county; Achsah, Aroda, Madison Mills, Radiant and Twyman’s Mill- the tiny office is the only one to survive multiple United States Postal Service cuts.
This year also marks postmaster Kay Racer-Lohr’s 25th year on the job. Racer -Lohr has been at the Radiant office since January 1995. She retired in 2015 but came back to take the part-time postmaster relief position. She had been contemplating taking a part-time job upon retirement from the United States Postal Service when a colleague in the Madison Post Office told her that the USPS was looking to fill the part-time relief position in Radiant. Racer-Lohr applied for and got the position so a few days after her official retirement she was back at work at the Radiant Post Office.
“I think I had the shortest retirement ever,” quipped Racer-Lohr. “I retired on Friday and was back next Monday morning.”
The Radiant Post Office was established March 18, 1885 in part of a store built by Z.T. Johnston in 1884. The post office has moved several times but has always remained on the same stretch of road. The road itself has moved several times and at one time Radiant was a rail stop on a narrow-gauge railroad running from Graves Mill to Orange. Mail to Radiant has come by horse, by train and now by truck.
The current building was constructed in 1949 with wood recycled from the old store which had served as the post office from 1904 until 1949.
The name “Radiant” was chosen by the Post Office Department in 1885 from a list of six names submitted by local schoolteacher and farmer Joseph Tucker. The name, meaning “bright,” often attracted attention at Christmas time. Collectors of postmarks often asked to have postal cancellations from towns with a Christmas theme--Nazareth, Bethlehem, Star and Radiant. Because so many people asked for cancellations from Radiant, the unincorporated community was accepted into the Post Mark Collectors Club in 1977 which in turn, made the postmark more desirable to collectors.
Originally, Racer-Lohr and the general delivery customers were planning a March 18 celebration at the post office but fears over the spread of COVID-19 cancelled the event.
“We were planning to celebrate but now is not the time,” she said. “Most of us are in the high-risk group. Radiant is like family. I know the customers that come here for their mail, the good things in their lives and the bad; the weddings, births and deaths.”