By Derek Wilson
With scenic trails to walk, a few lakes for fishing, and hills to just sit and watch the sun set, the San Geronimo Valley can be a haven for landscape painters, outdoorsmen … and dog lovers.
Marylu Giddings was a fixture in Woodacre with her beloved spaniels and Labrador mixes. They were together “thick and thin,” according to Marylu’s son, Andy. Together, Marylu and her dogs were a fixture at the post office and at the heart of the community. She was described in her obituary as “the fairy godmother to all the dogs of Woodacre, with an open-door policy to any dog wanting to drop in for a biscuit.”
Outside the U.S. Post Office on San Geronimo Drive there is a stone with a metal plate honoring former Postmaster Marylu Giddings: “For 25 years of spirited service as postmaster of Woodacre and a lifetime of dedication to her community,” dated April 15, 2009.
Giddings passed away at her Woodacre home on May 14, 2012 at age 79.
The community she loved, and which loved her back, is determined to ensure Marylu’s legacy survives. Rep. Jared Huffman, encouraged by a petition supported by more than 120 residents and Marin County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, has introduced legislation to change the name of the Woodacre Post Office in honor of Marylu Giddings.
Rodoni wrote in a letter to Huffman: “Marylu Giddings played an important role in the life of the unincorporated village of Woodacre, a role that went well beyond her outstanding work as postmaster. Not only did she serve the people and the Postal Service in an exemplary manner, Marylu was a leading citizen, supporting local nonprofits and working to help her neighbors on many levels, personal and professional.”
According to Andy Giddings, Marylu “took great care with each piece of mail. That just endeared her to the people. She took pride in her work in such a way that it’s hard to imagine today.”
The quiet, rural town of Woodacre has no Starbucks, no miniature golf, no movie theaters. The major social scenes here are at the Woodacre Country Market & Deli and the Woodacre Post Office.
There is no mail delivery in this small village of nearly 1,200 people, so residents stroll to the post office to pick up their letters and packages and to catch up on all the latest neighborhood news, as has been the way of things here for decades.
“Mom was extremely gossipy and she loved all the inside tracks that she had as postmaster,” Andy Giddings said. “She was a fountain of information of what was going on around Woodacre.”
“I got to know her over the years. At first, I found her somewhat intimidating,” said Liza Crosse, who helped spearhead the petition drive with help from current postmaster Bill Gossy. “She had a crusty demeanor. When she looked at you it was obvious that she doesn’t suffer fools. Over time, I understood what a big heart she has. She was sensible and practical. She had a lifelong commitment to the village of Woodacre.”
Crosse continued, “One thing about the post office is, because we don’t get street delivery, they are hubs for the community. People would come to get their mail and they’d talk politics, sports, whatever. People are more connected because of those communities … because of the post office. It speaks to the importance of the post office in those communities, especially in a time when post offices are under threat.”
Marylu Giddings came by her love of West Marin naturally. She was born, in all places, the Point Reyes Lighthouse, where her father, Gustave Zetterquist, was the lighthouse keeper. She graduated from Tomales High School in 1950 and soon after married Alfred Giddings, the new game warden for Marin County. It was a perfect fit as Al and Marylu were both avid anglers and hunters, as well as die-hard fans of the San Francisco 49ers and Giants. Al Giddings was the game warden in Marin County for roughly 40 years.
Andy Giddings jokes that he is jumpy by nature because Marylu fired 16 shots from a 20-gauge shotgun while seven months pregnant with him.
“Mom was a good cook and an expert in cooking all forms of wild game, as well as salmon, oysters and clams,” Andy recalled.
When her two children, Andy and Marylu K. Giddings, were old enough to ride the bus to school in 1962, their mother took a part-time job at the Woodacre Post Office. In 1965 she was officially named postmaster in Woodacre by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Marylu was at the post office every weekday by 7 a.m., raising the flag outside, then sorting the mail before noon while listening to news reports from Dave McElhatton on KCBS Radio. She was even a “weather spy” for KCBS, reporting the temperatures from the area.
Marylu had her “eccentricities,” according to Andy, and occasionally clashed with some members of the community. When neighbors while on vacation sent picture postcards to Marylu, she glued them to the post office walls for everyone to see. Some of the racier images of topless hula dancers upset the more conservative residents of Woodacre.
When Gossy was doing some work on the post office reception area recently, he tried to take some the postcards from the wall, but found they did not easily come loose. Some of the post cards remain, now framed in a glass case in memory of Marylu.
“The post office had a dutch door and people would call to my mom in the back the dogs would be running in and out,” Andy Giddings recalled. “People loved the dogs and they loved to get petted and to get treats. In fact, the dogs kind of led to her retirement. One day, a postal inspector came by, saw the dogs in the office and said they had to go or they would discipline her. At the end of that week, she handed in her notice. She had already been considering retirement, but that tipped the scale. She had been working at the post office for so long. She enjoyed the job, but she was happy to retire. She and dad could spend more time together.”
Marylu was also a member of the Woodacre Improvement Club and was a supporter of the protection of fisheries and game management.
(You can reach Derek Wilson at email@example.com.)