When Melisa and Bruce Bicker bought a home in South Gulf Cove, they planned for it to be their vacation home until they retired and could move down here full-time.
But plans change, and what was to be a vacation house that they visited a few times a year has become home.
Melisa and her husband first came to the area when friends heard that they wanted to buy a vacation spot and invited them to visit. The couple fell in love with Charlotte Harbor, and knew that they had found the right place.
Melisa met Bruce in her hometown of Shannon, Ill.
“As soon as I saw him, I knew we were meant to be,” she said. “The new guy in town, I had to know who he was.”
They had their first date a few months later, when he escorted her to the end-of-year seventh-grade banquet. They have been together ever since.
As one of three daughters, she was stuck squarely in the middle.
“They used to get together and gang up on me,” Melisa laughed. “They would probably tell a different story. Now that we are all older, we get along so much better and have a much closer relationship.”
A bit of a tomboy, Melisa’s father was her “best bud” while she was growing up.
“I always took the place of the boy that he never had,” she explained. “I went everywhere with him. We went fishing in Canada and in the Mississippi. We went to the stockyards together. I was his shadow.”
Her father owned a bowling alley in nearby Polo, Ill., where Melisa and her sisters would often spend time after school, on weekends and during the summer.
“None of the three of us were particularly good bowlers,” she said. “But we were in the Saturday junior league. We also helped out around the alley, sorting shoes, wiping them down and giving them a spray of deodorizer. It was interesting as a kid. She was always there for us when we were growing up. It couldn’t have been easy, dealing with all three of us, but she did it.”
Soon after the couple graduated from high school, in the summer of 1981, Melisa and Bruce were visiting his mother in Texas.
“We went out for lunch one day, and right there in the middle, he popped the question,” she recalled. “I was 18 at the time, and we were married when I was 19. We just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this year.”
While Melisa went to school to become a dental lab technician, Bruce began an apprenticeship as a linesman. After she graduated, they moved to Polo, where she got a job as a dental assistant.
“Eventually, I wanted to do something where there was room for advancement,” she said. “A friend suggested that I apply to the Post Office, so I did. About a year later, I heard back from them and I was hired. I’ve been with the Postal Service for 17 years now.”
Melisa started out behind the counter as a clerk, then went through the USPS supervisor training program.
“I became an acting manager and postmaster,” she explained. “I never really was a carrier, though I did help out a few times when we were short-handed. All of that walking isn’t always fun, especially in a snowy Illinois winter, carrying a heavy bag of mail.”
Melisa and Bruce have three children of their own, all grown and flown from the nest.
“Our oldest is 27, and she is a high school chemistry teacher,” Melisa described. “Next is our 25-year-old daughter, who is a nurse. Both of the girls are still living in Illinois. Our son, who is 22, is an electrical linesman like his father. He went to school in Georgia to learn how to do the job, instead of apprenticing. We don’t have any grandchildren yet.”
Melisa started at the Boca Grande Post Office on November 26, less than a month before Christmas.
“It is absolutely crazy,” she said. “This is a big adjustment for me. And I’ve already been warned that it doesn’t really slow down after Christmas, either. But I am very excited and so happy to be here.”
When she isn’t at work, Melisa has a few hobbies.
“I love to cook,” she said. “I love to eat and try different things. When I was a kid, I was kind of a tomboy, but they also called me Betty Crocker because I was always trying new things out.”
A more recent hobby is unpacking.
“I still have boxes everywhere,” she said. “When I got here, I hit the ground running, so I unpack when I can.”
While Melisa is glad that she was lucky enough to be chosen for the Postmaster job here on the island, it has come with a few difficulties.
“Bruce is actually still up in Illinois, in Polo, and he will stay up there until he can find a job down here,” she said. “We know that it could be a while. Overhead electrical linesman positions don’t fall off of trees.
But we talk on the phone every day.”
Bruce recently deployed to New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. He was also in Florida this year, helping clean up after Isaac.
“Bruce is very outgoing,” said Melisa. “He is very energetic and fun-loving. He’s the kind of guy who keeps you laughing, a joker.”
Melisa is kept busy learning the routine of a new office and getting to know her new clients.
“Though the US Postal Service is one big organization, each office has little things that they do differently,” she said. “The women who work here have been very helpful. Everything is going very well.”
Melisa has the house to herself for the moment, but that will change before long.
“My oldest daughter is already making plans to come visit when she has spring break, and my mother is coming down this summer,” she said. “The rest of the family will visit as they can, but for now we are keeping up with each other by phone. Of course, we plan to put in a pool, and then we won’t be able to keep everyone away.”
Once summer comes around, there is something that Melisa wants to do – catch a tarpon.
“When we visited on vacation, we came out to Boca Grande,” she said. “We watched the people out in the Pass fishing for tarpon. I haven’t tried it myself ... yet.”
If she’s lucky, when Christmas rolls around next year Melisa can add the memory of her first tarpon to the memories of fishing with her dad. It can only be hoped that she will share the moment with Bruce.
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