Frances Reed, Glen Ellen’s long-ago postmaster, dies at age 99

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May 5, 1962, was a red-letter day in Glen Ellen.

Inhabitants of the Valley of the Moon town came together to dedicate a new U.S. post office. Frances Reed welcomed them.

Reed, who was born in San Francisco to French-American parents and grew up speaking only French, served in ’63 as Glen Ellen’s acting postmaster.

She presented to the town what the Index-Tribune newspaper described as its “new, convenient, well-lighted, cooled, heated, spacious 1,000-square-foot” post office on Arnold Drive.

One year later, Glen Ellen cheered Reed for being awarded a promotion: the government had appointed her the town’s permanent postmaster.

She served until 1969, then became one of Sonoma County’s few women real estate agents. She died Sept. 4 at age 99.

In recent years, said granddaughter-in-law Megan Reed, “She was an avid gardener. She loved to be outside. She loved to walk.”

Frances Reed’s parents, Francois Baptiste and Julia Marie Joulie, emigrated to America in 1907 and settled in San Francisco, which was still recovering from the massive earthquake and fires of 1906. Their daughter was born there June 7, 1919.

Shortly after her birth, her parents moved to Sonoma Valley and started a new life on Trinity Road. She studied at Sonoma Valley High School.

On Aug. 17, 1943, she married Earl Clifton Reed, who would have a career with the state Division of Forestry. They had three sons.

Frances Reed went to work in real estate sales. She worked with Lloyd Cline in Kenwood before working for a man who’d become a regional transportation leader and a pillar of the Sonoma Valley community, L.E. “Bud” Castner.

In the 1950s, Castner, who’d serve for decades on the board of the Golden Gate Bridge District, operated two real estate and insurance offices. Reed sold property out of Castner’s Glen Ellen office on Arnold Drive at Warm Springs Road. Castner died in 1992.

In 1961, Reed made a career change. She took the civil service test and went to work for the U.S. Postal Service. She was Glen Ellen’s acting postmaster when the post office moved in ’62 into a modern, $15,000 building.

The following spring, Reed received a letter from USPS Regional Director Raymond Holmquist. He wrote, “It is a happy privilege for me to forward to you the enclosed commission signed by President John F. Kennedy appointing you Postmaster at Glen Ellen, California.”

The keepsake letter was all the more precious and bittersweet to Reed following Kennedy’s assassination seven months later.

Reed returned to real estate sales after she left the Glen Ellen post office in 1969.

She is survived by her sons, Gene Reed of Glen Ellen, Ronald Green of Guerneville and Kenneth Reed of Rollinsville, Colorado; four grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 2015.

You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 or chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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