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His Life Bears the Stamp of Pure Heaven

Times Staff Writer

Leroy (Rusty) Rust says a millionaire couldn’t buy his life style.

“Heaven could not be any better,” he declares.

For 24 years, Rust, 65, has been postmaster of Yosemite National Park.

He was born in the park in 1920 and has lived his entire life here, except for a year in the Army Air Force during World War II. He has lived in Yosemite longer than anyone else.

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He jogs through the woods and lush mountain meadows every morning before going to work. After work, he swims in the refreshing, sparkling clear waters of the Merced River before going home to dinner. Home, provided by the federal government, is behind the post office.

Fished in 81 Lakes

Summer weekends he spends hiking 15 to 20 miles each day in the spectacular High Sierra back country at elevations from 7,000 to 11,000 feet. He has fished in 81 of the park’s 318 lakes and hiked to all but a dozen.

He plays tennis on nearby courts and golfs at the park’s Wawona course. In winter, he spends his weekends skiing.

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For nearly four decades, he has given his time voluntarily in winter to coach the Yosemite Winter Club race team, a ski club for youths that has produced Olympic and Junior Olympic team members.

As postmaster, he is responsible for five post offices inside the park, where service includes mail picked up in back country High Sierra camps and hand-canceled: “U.S. MAIL CARRIED OUT BY MULE.”

“We sell more postcard stamps than any post office in America, more airmail overseas stamps than any other post office,” Rust said.

Rust’s grandfather started working here at the turn of the century, building roads and trails. His father drove a passenger stagecoach from Le Grande to Wawona to Yosemite Valley.

“My father brought in and took out all the mail in the park from 1921 through the 1930s. I lived in one of the four apartments above this post office for several years when I was a kid,” he said.

Rust went through grade school in Yosemite and to high school in Mariposa, a 90-mile round-trip bus ride every day.

Everything he wants, he said, is “right outside my door.”

“Oh, I’ve been offered any number of promotions for better jobs in the post office, all outside the park,” he said. “I’ve always said, ‘No.’ ”

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