The Ries Chapter
On October 25, 2019 the United States Postal Service (USPS) issued four stamps depicting Holiday Wreaths. The first day ceremony was held at L.L. Bean Flagship store in Freeport, ME. A crowd of about 100, consisting of regional postal employees, collectors, and L.L. Bean shoppers who wanted to see what was going on, attended the 11AM ceremony.
Bill Green, Executive Producer and host of Bill Green’s Maine on News Center Maine served as Master of Ceremonies. The colors were presented by the Freeport Police Department Color Guard followed by an excellent rendition of the National Anthem by Isabella StCyr, a senior at Freeport High School. Green then remarked that, yes, he was a “Mainer”, as evidenced by how he dropped his Rs. He then introduced honored guests in the audience including representatives of the two Maine US senators and a state representative. He also introduced Leon Gorman, grandson of Leon Leonwood Bean and the current CEO of L.L. Bean, Inc. and his wife.
Welcome remarks were provided by Michael Mahoney, Chief Legal & Compliance Officer, L.L. Bean, Inc. “L.L.Bean is pleased to host the unveiling of the USPS Holiday Wreath stamps. Our relationship with the Postal Service began with the very first parcel post mailing out of Freeport with our iconic Maine Hunting Shoe, over 105 years ago. Since then, the Postal Service has been a great partner in our success. We are honored to be welcoming Postmaster General Brennan and hosting the unveiling of these stamps.” He noted L.L. Bean owed its start to the post office. In 1912, Leon Leonwood (L.L.) Bean mailed out a three-page catalog advertising exactly one item (the Maine Hunting Shoe) to all out-of-state holders of Maine hunting licenses. The revenue from the catalog got the company started. Mahoney also said the Leon Leonwood Bean’s brother, Guy C. Bean, served as Freeport Postmaster from 1936 to 1948. Finally, he thanked the USPS for allowing L.L. Bean to have their own Zip Code, 04034.
Green then introduced Megan J. Brennan, Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer, USPS, who served as the Dedicating Official. He noted that she had just announced her retirement effective the end of the year [Update: she has announced that she will remain in office until a replacement is named – so we may see her again at another first day ceremony]. Brennan said “I am honored to represent the more than 630,000 dedicated men and women of the United States Postal Service. This holiday season, the Postal Service will deliver more than 13 billion cards and letters and 800 million packages to homes and businesses across the country.”
Brennan said that she was a big fan of wreaths, adding that her sister, who was in the audience, made the wreaths for the family. Noting that she began her career as a letter carrier in Lancaster, PA, she said “When you’re a letter carrier, you notice a lot. You notice how people decorate their houses, and especially their doors. What you begin to realize is that the wreath is a form of expression. It’s certainly a way of expressing individuality. The wreath on the door may express the shared spirit of the holidays … of family … and good will to others. The wreath has played an enduring role in our holiday traditions — and with the Postal Service. The very first holiday postage stamp featured a wreath.” She then invited the ceremony participants to help her dedicate the stamps.
The final speaker was Laura Dowling, the designer of the wreaths depicted on the stamps. She served as the White House Chief Floral Designer from 2009 to 2015. She began by saying ““As an artist, a designer, I don’t think there is a greater honor than having your artwork on a postage stamp. It still seems a bit surreal to me … I am so appreciative, humbled, honored.”
Dowling then related the story behind the design of the stamps. She lives in Old Town, Alexandria, VA, where they have an annual wreath design contest. One year, she was one of the winners of the contest. USPS Art Director Antonio Alcala also lives in Old Town Alexandria and saw her wreath while walking. He contacted Dowling and asked if she would like to design stamps depicting wreaths. She declined due to her White House position. When she left the White House, Alcala again reached out to her and she agreed to design the stamps.
Dowling designed a collection of wreaths, made from natural materials easily accessible to people all over the country, that would reflect the holiday tradition and embody the winter season. Four were selected for the stamps. Kevin Allen took the photographs of the wreaths depicted on the stamps. The two wreaths with the background of a red door were photographed on a neighbor of Dowling’s front door during a summer thunderstorm. The other two were photographed at George Washington’s River Farm on the Potomac in Alexandria, which is the home of the American Horticultural Association.
Dowling concluded by saying “I love to make wreaths. They are a symbol of welcome, this idea that it’s a circle with no beginning, no end — a symbol of unity.”
Green ended the 25-minute ceremony by inviting attendees to buy the new stamps and obtain first day cancels at the USPS sales area located just outside the store.
All ceremony participants signed autographs for as long as there was interest. USPS National Events and L.L. Bean representatives provided extra programs and stamp pins to those in the autograph line. During the autograph session, PMG Brennan noted that this was her 19th first day ceremony. I said that I had been at her first ceremony as PMG; she quickly identified it as the Robert Robinson Taylor ceremony at the National Postal Museum
Following the ceremony, Chris Lazaroff and I went to the Freeport post office (conveniently located one block from the L.L. Bean Flagship Store) to obtain unofficial postmarks on our ceremony program envelopes. I then returned to the L.L. Bean Flagship Store to make purchases.
This was an excellent ceremony; just the right length and each speaker provided interesting information. Ceremony programs were readily available, the participants signed autographs, and the Freeport post office was very cooperative for obtaining unofficial cancels. Can’t ask for much more.
Foster's article (and scans) were published in the ACPS' 2019 4th Quarter issue of "The Ceremonial"
It was a sad day for me when I found out that my Uncle Terry had passed away, and the time of year made it worse (late December holiday season). My Uncle Terry was AWESOME, because he liked some of the same things I like, including DC and Marvel comic books, The Beatles, and movies.
I started my Uncle Terry Celebration of Life cacheted cover idea by searching my Uncle Terry’s Facebook page for pictures of him. After finding some pretty good ones, I asked my Aunt for any pictures of him that she could email to me. She replied, “Yes, but that it would have to wait until the day after Christmas.” I was pleased that she kept her word, because I received some pictures from my her on December 26, 2019. I proceeded to download and sort through the pictures to decide which ones I’d like to use on my cover. After doing so, I selected three of them that I felt were the best. I was now ready to start assembling my cachet.
I began by placing the picture of my Uncle Terry sitting in the chair holding an envelope with the black background on the lower right hand corner of the cachet. Then, in the lower left hand corner of the cachet, I put the picture of my Uncle in his red USC shirt, winking and smiling at the camera. For the third picture, I put the photo of him with his hat on backwards in the middle of the other two pictures as close to the top as possible. That way, I would have room to insert the wording for the cachet. I first put the date, “APRIL 4, 1945”, of my Uncle’s birthday, along with the date of his passing, “DECEMBER 20, 2019”, all in USC colors. Next, I put the words, “CELEBRATION OF LIFE JANUARY 9, 2019”, also in USC colors.
With my Aunt Debbie’s approval of the cachet, I printed it on the envelopes for my Uncle’s celebration. After doing all of the printing, I went to the Verdugo PO to get Hot Wheels stamps, and to the Pasadena PO to get them cancelled. I got this all done on January 6, just three days before my Uncle Terry’s Celebration of Life services.
On a related note, I used those three pictures, along with other pictures and music, to create a Celebration of Life video for my Uncle Terry that was played at his services on January 9, 2000. It ran continuously throughout the service. One of the songs that I used in the video, “All You Need Is Love”, even got quoted by the Master of Ceremony.
After the lovely service for my Uncle Terry, it was time for the reception at Vince’s Spaghetti. There I gave my Aunt the Uncle Terry Celebration of Life covers to give to family and friends. I also kept 3 of them for myself.
This article is dedicated to my Uncle Terry
And finally, to quote from Ozzy Osbourne’s new single: “Been higher than the blue sky.
And the truth is I don't wanna die an ordinary man.”