A bittersweet ending: One mailman says goodbye to his route and hello to retirement
RAVENSWOOD — He's spent 34 years with a postal carrier bag on his shoulder. He spent 29 of those walking up and down Harpold Avenue, watching kids grow up and seeing friends on a daily basis.
Brent Walter, of LeRoy, is hanging up his carrier bag Friday, and everyone on Harpold Avenue is sad to see him go. The street's residents joined forces to celebrate his retirement Thursday afternoon.
Walter had no idea. As soon as he turned onto the street, he noticed red and multi-colored balloons scattered about in everyone's yards. There were a few that even said "Happy Retirement" on them.
But this didn't stop him from going about business as usual. He loaded up his bag for the second to last time and briskly walked up the hill. Not everyone was home, but several people came out when they saw him closing their mailbox.
He got into a conversation but staying true to his work ethic, Walter only stopped to chat for a minute before he started up the hill again. That didn't deter people from talking with him though, one resident — his driving instructor from high school — stayed by his side until he got to the top of the hill.
Walter was greeted by a dozen people at the top of the hill in Kacie Smith's front yard. From toddlers to grandparents, people of all ages were there to say goodbye.
Carole Moore, of Ravenswood, has known Walter for 29 years. She said he's part of the family — they pick on each other constantly. Moore is a night owl, and Walter always gives her a hard time about it. Even during Thursday's sendoff.
"I'm surprised you're up this early," Walter said to Moore with a chuckle. It was 2 p.m.
That sense of humor didn't stop with Moore. Walter picked on everyone, including the Smiths. One day when Kelcie Smith's husband was home, Walter walked up — hands filled with boxes — and said "It's Christmas every day at the Smith house," and it stuck.
Several neighbors on the block chipped in to give Walter some gift cards and a thoughtful letter. Before he could walk away from Smith's house, they asked him to open the card.
"Man, oh man," Walter said. "You guys are going to make me cry."
Tears started flowing soon after. He closed up the letter, tucked it in his bag, thanked everyone and he was off.
"The people are just great," Walter said. "I'm going to miss the people."
Walter is planning on spending his retirement on his farm in LeRoy tending to his cattle. He said it's bittersweet closing this chapter, but "it's time."
— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.