While many students may not recognize her by name, they likely know Alice Voner as the mail clerk in the Smith Union Mail Center with long, flowing hair.
Voner is currently in her third year working in the Mail Center, and she said she is fond of her position because of its frequent interaction with students.
“My favorite part of the job is the students,” she said. “Some of them need to be mothered; some still need to be gently taught how to mail a letter. I get to still be a mom, basically.”
Before beginning her work at Bowdoin, Voner grew up in Shelby, Ohio. She met her now ex-husband when he graduated from a U.S. Navy boot camp and accompanied him around the country as his unit relocated. He was finally relocated to Dresden, Maine, where the couple settled down.
“I went down to Kentucky to go visit some family,” she said. “My ex-husband was on a drill team in a parade, where we met. We wrote back and forth, called, visited each other, and a year later, we got married. I was 17 and he was 27 at the time—that’s also probably what broke us up.”
From traveling so often, Voner said she had a difficult time finding consistency.
“Traveling that much, I met a lot of people and had to [frequently] say goodbye. I got used to making a lot of friends but not holding onto them. But at the end of the day, I was a mother to four children, so it was alright,” she said.
She has always loved acting as a mother—a trait that has helped her interact with students a Bowdoin.
“[My ex-husband] would be gone for six months at a time, and it was kind of stressful raising four toddlers at a time. Before the Internet became really popular, we spent a lot of time together,” Voner said. “The kids would all be sitting at the table, messing around with Play-doh or coloring and I’d read to them—a lot of ghost stories and Sherlock Holmes.”
Voner said one of the reasons her current position as a mail clerk is rewarding is because it allows her to exercise her caring nature, even though her children are now adults.
“I remember on the first day of school, I got to meet one of the student’s families,” Voner said. “The mother asked me ‘When does this stop?’ I never went to college, but my children did, so I knew she meant ‘when will I stop crying,’ and I said three months. The student came and thanked me later, saying it meant a lot to his family. That was the first year I was here.”
However, Voner’s most notable trait is her hair that hangs past her waist.
“I went in to get my hair cut and just said, ‘do whatever you want.’ I walked out with like inch-high hair. I was 22 at the time and it aged me to like 35—it was horrible and it took years to grow out—I think I looked in the mirror and looked back down, gave her the fee and walked out. Nobody has touched my hair since,” she said. “Now it’s also partly for religious reasons—I’m part of the Pentecostal Church and here in Maine, that’s one of their customs.”
Voner said she always dreamed of coming to Maine, and when her husband was given the option to move here, the couple quickly accepted. After moving to Dresden, she worked at a shipping center in Cook’s Corner.
When the shipping center closed down, one of her friends working in a nearby letter shop informed her about a job opening in Bowdoin’s Mail Center.
While many people may not predict a job in the Mail Center would be entertaining, Voner said the opposite is true.
“At the beginning of the summer, there was a guest speaker or teacher here—I’m not sure what—who stopped by to send a package,” she said. “He had an accent, so I said ‘You’re clearly not a Mainer.’ He looked at me, ripped open his shirt, and said ‘I’m Spanish!’ A few moments later, he went to go get some money from the ATM, and when he came back around the corner, he did it again: ‘I’m Spanish!’”
In her spare time, she said she spends a lot of time with friends, does needlepoint and paints her house.
“I’m not a very good artist, but I try to paint on the walls, like trees and plants,” she said.
Though Voner said she is completely settled in Maine now, she often finds herself traveling. A few years ago, she traveled to Ireland and Greece.
“I knew that an adult education program was taking a trip and I was trying to decide whether or not to do it,” she said. As she passed the adult education group’s building, she said she thought, “‘I’m not married and my kids are grown,’ so I slammed on my brakes, turned in and signed up.”
Though Voner is no longer fresh to the Mail Center, she said, “I never ever, ever get bored.”