Compiled by Stacy Thomas | Photo by Danny Alexander
BOB AMMERMAN, 73 | NEW ALBANY
‘Recently Retired Mail Carrier for the United States Postal Service’
My last day as a mailman was June 28. Approaching 73 and a half, some folks tell me it is time for this old man to retire. Some days my body agrees, but my heart is still in it. I enjoyed my postal patrons. Over the years, many of my customers have become special friends and like a second family to me. I have witnessed lots of events: newlyweds, new babies, children leaving for college. I have watched some folks age and, sadly, I have watched some pass away. I’m prejudiced, but I felt I had one of the best routes in Buechel (in Kentucky).
Human and personal contact is a big deal. It has been a part of my life for so long. Before my mail route, I was an associate minister at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. I grew up on a farm in Wayne County where the preachers would stop in for a visit just to check on your chickens. I would visit a lot of shut-ins, folks in the hospitals or nursing homes. I always tried to connect with the folks on my mail routes. Being a mailman filled a void for me. It became another parish of people that could touch my life personally and feed my spirit as well.
I tried to make contact with everyone on my route. If I noticed there was in influx of cards, I would knock on the door to check and see if there was a birthday or if someone was sick or there had been a death in the family. I also took it upon myself to be the neighborhood watch. If there were break-ins in the area, I would notify the folks on my route.
I didn’t become a mailman until the age of 52. After I left the ministry, I held a series of jobs: a clerk at Bacon’s Department Store at River Falls, a server at O’Charley’s, … I worked as a clerk in the main plant before I was given a letter-carrying route. I did what I had to do to support my family and my children through college.
My first route was in Newburg. I held that route for nine years. On my first day, I decided to be as friendly as I could. You reap what you sew. I started to get to know the families and their dogs. I grew up on a farm; I was not afraid of dogs. I could bluff my way through. Eventually these people became part of my life and myself a part of theirs. I would read the obituaries and attend funeral visitations, often in my uniform. I would walk in and they would shout, “There’s our mailman!” When you make those connections with people, it really resonates.
One Christmas, I received a card with three crumpled up one dollar bills inside. I could tell it was a real sacrifice for this family. I wrote a thank you note to them. I thanked them for thinking of me. I shared how much I enjoyed being their mailman and watching their little puppy grow. The next time I delivered to their residence, they had framed my note; it was hanging on the dining room wall. My simple expression of gratitude had a huge impact on them. They told me it was the nicest thing anyone has ever given them.
It is the little touches that are important – the thank you notes, the smiles that smile back, showing genuine concern for others. If you bless others, you will be blessed and fulfilled. In this day and age, people don’t experience a lot of human contact. When you start loving people, that’s what is important. When you build others up, you will reap the rewards in a different bank account, a bank account of blessings.
Many of my patrons saved stamps for me. Now that I am retired, I can finally start sorting and organizing. I received so many nice cards and letters upon my retirement from my patrons. I know that for the last 22 years this is where God wanted me to be. I will now have time to weed my flowers, visit my grandkids in Colorado and east Central Indiana. I have lots of yard work I can catch up on. I planted over 250 irises on my family’s farm in Wayne County. You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy. My wife Carol (a retired fourth grade teacher at Mt. Tabor) and I can finally do things we have put off for years – soon to be 47 years of marriage. I am going to start back into the visiting ministry for the church again for the elderly and shut-ins. I live in New Albany, but perhaps I’ll find my way back across the river to walk my old route to visit and just say hello.