By John Deming, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, December 17, 2004
HAMPTON -- Thirty-seven and a half years as a letter carrier, and Larry Daland was bitten by only one dog —- a poodle.
"I love dogs," said Daland, who is retiring this month. "But when delivering mail, you have to learn not to trust them."
The poodle ripped Daland's pant leg, but its owner reimbursed him. That was his first year on the job.
Now, decades and countless deliveries later, Daland — revered by his co-workers and nearly considered a family member by some on his route — is hanging up his mailbag for good.
"He's an awesome guy," said fellow letter carrier and union member John Sigmund. "And a very giving guy."
To many, Daland is much more than a letter carrier; he's a powerful voice in the union, he's a loving grandfather, father and husband — according to Sigmund, he's "a lot of things."
Daland's retirement party will be held in January in Manchester, Sigmund said, to accommodate the swarms of people who will want to attend.
"Larry is so well-known in the state of New Hampshire," said Sigmund. "We're going to have a big shindig out there."
For Daland — whose career spans an interesting period for the postal service, from a time when letters were a vital means of communication to the age of e-mail — it's simply time for a change.
"I'm just tired of delivering mail," he said. "It's time to leave it alone and do something else."
That something else is will include Daland's favorite hobby; woodworking—specifically toy making, something friends and co-workers know him well for.
Daland fashions wooden puzzles, games and toys for his grandchildren, for his co-workers' children and even for families along his postal route.
"I just like making toys," said the father of two and grandfather of four. "There's no stress to making them."
The small woodshop behind Daland's house is heated and, aside from his saws and lathes, contains a mini-refrigerator, a television, a stereo and an intercom, which he uses to communicate with his wife when he works.
Daland works for hours back there, he said. He often makes six to seven piece puzzles for small children. Hot air balloons, ducklings with umbrellas, robots — they're all subjects of Daland's work.
He even had his own mailbox shaped like a mail truck, until it was vandalized, he said.
Going from street to street, house to house, person to person for 37 years has left Daland with a wealth of stories.
In the late '80s, he delivered a postcard to an elderly woman — a postcard that her brother had sent her in 1967.
"It probably got stuck behind a canceling machine or something," he said. "It doesn't happen often, but it happens."
The woman's brother had since died, Daland said. The woman appreciated the delivery, and the two of them shared a pleasant laugh.
"I told her, it may be late, but we still deliver," he said.
Carrying the mail also means Daland literally watches people grow up.
"I'll meet them as young kids," he said, noting that likes to hand out lollipops and dog biscuits. "Then eventually I'll deliver their college acceptance letters, their wedding invitations…"
Daland began working for Hampton's post office at the age of 19 for $1.75 an hour, only two weeks after marrying his wife.
The post office was located where a Dunkin' Donuts now sits, and Daland often found himself walking the length of Lafayette Road.
These days he is actively involved in the Letter Carriers union, having become vice president for Branch 44 of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC).
His fellow union members couldn't say enough good things about him when they awarded him at a ceremony that officially titled him a "NALC Hall of Famer."
Buster Marzinzik, Branch 44's Sgt. at Arms, was among many who wrote about Daland in the NALC newsletter, which was distributed at the ceremony.
"Daland is a hard man to write about," wrote Marzinzik. "There is no way you could write a short article. His dedication to the union could fill a newspaper, and the people he has helped would read like the phone book."
Though he has worked hard, filing grievances with management and trying to help provide equitable overtime, what he often loved about his job was the pure, ethereal pleasure he provided for people — especially children — who were always excited to see what was in the day's mail.
"There's something about getting mail in a mailbox," he said. "It's a surprise and people love surprises."
In the past Daland has been so close with those on his route that he was given the key to the house to feed pets while a family was away.
"I always got along with (customers)," he said. "I liked the customers; they were the job."
People simply have their mail held at the post office when they take a vacation these days. And that's not the only change. According to Daland, mail these days includes few traditional letters. Mostly there is just "odd-sized mail," different kinds of advertising and "junk mail."
"Mail volume has gone down a lot," he said. "It's just changed. It's harder and harder every day for carriers to carry mail."
And he was only bitten by that one poodle.
"One (fellow letter carrier) got bit by a goose," he said. "Those geese, they'll chase you — he got bitten right on the hind end."
Beginning at the end of December, Daland will no longer be faced with such concerns. Instead, he'll turn to his gift-making; the cat-houses, the whirlygigs, the clocks, the mailboxes, the puzzles.
He has many projects to catch up on, he said, including a music box for his granddaughter.
"I'm just going to stay in my workshop," he said. "You can make anything out of wood."
Postal Worker's Quotes:
"This past June, New Hampshire Letter Carriers dedicated their yearbook to Larry Daland. It was titled 'Total Dedication.' Larry has always put everybody else first. Carriers, friends, and especially his customers. The world has become a better place because of Larry Daland. Happy retirement 'my friend.'" [-John Sigmund]
"Larry Daland is a great letter carrier, an excellent union steward and a great friend." [— Bob K.]
"On rare occasions in a letter carrier's career do you come across a man like Larry Daland. He's 100 percent union, 100 percent friend and 100 percent for the customers. After 37 years of dedicated service to the P.O., the most important thing that he cares about is his fellow workers. A dedicated union official in all aspects of union business, he is a self-made walking talking ELM JCAM encyclopedia. I consider myself blessed to call Larry one of my best friends. Someone you can trust and be there for you in any situation life throws at you. Thanks Larry for being that special person our family can depend on." [— Buster]
"Larry, I'd like to take this time to say thanks, tremendously, for all of your dedication to your fellow workers and the union. You've been an inspiration to all. We will certainly miss you. The one thing that I have learned in 10 years is that I'll certainly never be able to drink you under the table. Ha Ha … take care. Enjoy your retirement." [— Dennis Lunden]
"Thank you for all you have done and all the time you give for the protection of all our workers." [-Jay Ring]
"Larry, I hope you find green pastures. Have a great retirement." [— Tom Tillman]
"Congrats Larry. Enjoy your retirement — but know you'll be missed." [— Deena]
"Larry, don't worry, be happy! I'll miss your smile and friendship!" [— Sissy]
"Larry. Great worker, great friend and great union steward. You will be missed. Keep in touch." [— Greg]
"In my 16 years of government service I have never met a more selfless person. His dedication to his job and especially to his co-workers is exemplary. Larry will be sadly missed by our office and especially by me." [— Maurice Patch Jr.]
"Larry, you know what I always say. "You'll be alright." Model Carrier." [— George]
"Larry, I just want to say thank you, you will be missed. Good luck. God bless" [— Darlene]