“I love this job,” beamed Todd Hoover as he wound up his final week delivering mail in downtown Edmonds, where he’s known for his infectious smile, positive attitude and walking his route in official U.S. Postal Service shorts every day of the year, rain, snow, sleet or hail.
Retiring Saturday after 40 years carrying letters along the same route, Hoover has earned his place as a local fixture. He’s watched kids grow up, people move in and out, and developed special relationships with many of his customers. Known and loved in the neighborhood, every day is a succession of waves, hellos and high-fives from people whose mail he’s delivered for decades.
“There’s some folks still living along my route who were around when I started,” he recalled.
A career in letter carrying was not what Hoover ever intended, but it’s almost as if fate set him up.
“My first real experience with mail carrying was in kindergarten,” he explained with a laugh. “My mom was supposed to come pick me up, but somehow I didn’t put it together to wait for her. As I left school I spotted a mail carrier, and somehow I just knew I had to follow him. I trailed him across busy Ballard Avenue, and eventually recognized enough of my surroundings to make my way home from there, walking in the door to my mother’s great relief.”
His next postal experience came years later while standing in line for a movie in downtown Seattle. He overhead the person behind him in an animated conversation about how great it was being a letter carrier, the freedom of being outdoors, good pay and lots of job security.
“It sounded really good to me,” he recalls. “And it was one of those significant moments that just got burned into my head.”
Sometime later, he found himself talking with a group of younger friends and hearing them complain about their jobs delivering newspapers for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It triggered something in his brain, and the memory of what he’d heard in the theater line came blazing back.
“I just blurted out, ‘Hey, you should quit your job and work as a mailman, you’d make a lot more money,’” he said. “I didn’t really think about it – it just sort of came out.”
But at the time, the idea of carrying mail himself was pretty far from his mind. He was a student at the University of Washington majoring in psychology, and very much into academics and his field of study.
“I really loved psychology, and seriously considered making it my life’s work,” he explained. “I was toying with committing to six more years to pursue a Ph.D., and was at the point where I needed some advice. I sat down with my professor to ask what it’s like to do this. He told me how much he earns in a year, how tough it is to get grant money, and the challenges and pitfalls of academic research. This dose of reality took much of the shine off the prospect of an academic career.”
That was when the light went on over his head — the overheard conversation in the movie queue, and whole idea of taking the advice he’d given his friends about the joys of mail carrying came together in one life-changing moment.
“The more I thought about being a mailman, the more I realized it would be a good fit for me,” he said.
That set him on his path, and the rest is history.
“I love this job, I love this career, my co-workers are great, but my customers are the best,” he exclaimed. “It’s a job that’s fun to go to. I wake up every day thinking ‘oh boy, I get to go to work today!’ It’s honest work, sometimes it’s hard work, especially lately with all the packages of online orders we’re delivering, but I’m glad for that. It keeps us busy.”
Hoover has nothing but praise for his co-workers and the particular joys and synergy of the Perrinville post office.
“This is the Disneyland of post offices,” he exclaimed. “It’s the happiest place on earth. I have so loved coming here every day.”
As if to prove the point, at a Saturday morning reception his co-workers turned out in force to wish Hoover well. Praise and congratulations filled the air, all confirming Hoover’s estimation that the Perrinville post office is a happy place.
And in the tradition of a retiring major league baseball star, Hoover’s post office shorts and shirt are being retired and enshrined in the staff break room as a permanent memorial to his years of service.
Concluding a sometimes-tearful farewell speech, Hoover observed, “Life doesn’t begin at retirement. A lot of people spend their whole life gearing up to do that, but I believe we’re in our life right now. I’ve looked forward to coming here every morning, and it’s been fun hanging out with you every day. I’m gonna miss being in your presence. I love you all.”
Hoover’s retirement plans include more time with family – especially grandchildren – and travel with wife Carla.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel