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Septuagenarian Trucker Sorts Mail of Senators

February 17, 1985|CHARLES HILLINGER | Times Staff Writer

LINCOLN, Neb. — She's lovable "Postmaster Lottie" to all the senators when the Nebraska Legislature is in session. On weekends and the rest of the year, she drives semis coast to coast.

"Don't call me postmistress. I have never been anybody's mistress. The government says the proper title for the job is postmaster, woman or man," said 74-year-old Lottie Henderson as she sorted mail.

"Postmaster Lottie" has operated the one-house Nebraska Legislative Post Office (ZIP 68509) in the state Capitol for 23 years. She has been a truck driver for 50 years.

"I've driven over 2 million miles without an accident since 1935, delivering everything from marshmallows to buffaloes. The man upstairs has been my co-pilot," said the 5-foot-6, 175-pound widow who has four children, 17 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.

She runs the post office five days a week for three months even-numbered years and six months odd-numbered years, when the state Legislature is in session.

'I Love to Work'

"I'm a widow twice. I just can't sit still. Never could. I love to work--both jobs," Postmaster Lottie said.

So, on weekends she drives short hauls for a trucking company. When the Legislature isn't in session she is constantly on the road. She is known by truckers from New York to California by her CB handle, Road Runner.

Her last long haul in December before the Legislature convened was driving a loaded moving van 1,700 miles north to Calgary, Canada.

"I spent six hours driving on slick sheet-ice in Alberta on the way up. Seemed like everybody was in the ditch but me," she said. She has driven trucks in every state except Maine, Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska.

Work has been a mainstay in Lottie's life. "I grew up on a Bennington, Kansas, farm. My earlier memories are of doing chores. I drove a six-horse team and helped milk 65 cows when I was 10," she recalled.

One of a Handful

For years, she was a novelty, one of only a handful of professional women truck drivers on the highways and byways of America.

After Nebraska's Gov. Bob Kerrey, 41, was elected two years ago last November, he stopped by the post office to say hello. When Kerrey was a boy, he delivered papers to his neighbor, Lottie Henderson.

She closely followed her newsboy's career over the years from Vietnam Congressional Medal of Honor winner to Nebraska's chief executive.

"Now what do I call you--your honor, sir, governor or just plain Bob?" the postmaster asked the governor.

"Lottie, you just keep calling me Bob, as you always have," said the governor with a big grin.

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