Randy Warner, a postal employee for 40 years, says he has watched children on his route grow up and Northwood farmland give way to roads and businesses.
There have been days when Northwood residents placed cookies and Ohio State University merchandise -- even a back scratcher -- in their mailboxes for their longtime postal carrier, Randy Warner.
There have been other days, too, such as the one on his previous delivery route in East Toledo, when a knife-wielding man demanded that Mr. Warner give up the food stamps in the mail.
"It's been interesting," Mr. Warner said as he thought back on his 40-year career with the U.S. Postal Service. "It's been more than interesting."
For many in Northwood, the laid-back postal worker is well known. He's worked basically the same route in Northwood for 33 years.
"It's kind of unheard of," Barbara Petrusky, manager at the Oregon Post Office, said about his longevity.
Lou Black moved into his house on the quiet Bordeaux Rue Avenue -- on Mr. Warner's route -- in 1978, when his two children were 5 and 8. Now, his children are parents themselves.
The friendship between Mr. Black and Mr. Warner has spanned decades, as the two men chatted beside the mailbox about everything from the latest gossip in the neighborhood, to how the Buckeyes are doing, to the weather.
"I would like to have him as a neighbor," Mr. Black said.
One year, the mail carrier gave him tickets to an Ohio State football game.
Just as Mr. Warner has seen the people on his delivery route grow up, he's noticed the landscape evolve as farmland was replaced by bustling streets and businesses.
Randy Warner delivers mail on Lear Drive in Northwood. His career with the postal service has provided him with a collection of stories. He says he doesn't plan to retire for a few more years.
The postal service's future is now uncertain after the agency lost $8.5 billion last year. In September, protesters spoke out against closing five post office branches and stations in Toledo, which are among 3,653 offices nationwide that could be axed.
"It makes me sad things have changed the way it has," Mr. Warner, 62, said about the postal service.
"But it doesn't do me any good to worry about it. … There's people a lot smarter than me trying to save it."
Instead he just focuses on his routine -- eating breakfast every morning at a Bob Evans restaurant, then delivering 2,000 letters a day on his nearly 24-mile route through Northwood.
It's the city he grew up in, where he graduated from high school in 1968, and to which he swore he'd never return after he joined the military.
But something changed, and Mr. Warner missed home. At age 22, he started his job at the post office on April 16, 1973.
Since then, Mr. Warner has gathered a collection of stories.
He talks about dogs -- both a postal worker's nemesis and best friend.
Some bit him while he walked his route; one, a collie named Toby, always followed him on Blandin Avenue in Northwood.
One day in 1975, a boy ran out of a house, shouting that it was on fire.
Mr. Warner, who is not easily rattled, went inside and put out the grease fire on the stove. And, of course, he has his robbery story.
The thief, dressed in a hat and overcoat on a hot September day in 1978, threatened him with the knife, then grabbed the food stamps and ran to his car.
Mr. Warner reported the license plate, and police later caught the man, he said.
Mr. Warner said he doesn't plan to retire for a few more years, so he can support his disabled adult son.
He will keep delivering mail to Northwood residents who by now feel more like family than customers, he said.
It makes going to the grocery store "a long, drawn-out adventure," Mr. Warner said. "Everybody's a friend."
Contact Gabrielle Russon at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6026.
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