A career spanning nearly half a century will be drawing to a close on Saturday. After working for 46 years as an independent contractor for the postal service in Perry County, Norman “Butch” Hunt is getting ready to retire.
Hunt started delivering on this highway contract route in East Perry County at the age of 21.
“My dad had owned the route before, and I wasn’t 21 yet when he passed away, so my mom subcontracted it out until I was 21, and then I took over,” Hunt said.
The route originally began and ended with the Old Appleton post office, but about 10 years ago, Hunt’s route was moved so that it began and ended at the Perryville post office. According to data compiled by Customer Service Supervisor Philip Birk, Hunt has worked approximately 3,030 days, driving 124 miles each day. This comes to a total of 1,433,796 miles, not including extra miles on driveways or to get around flooding or construction. Driving this distance would be the same as traveling the circumference of the earth about 58 times. The delivery trucks only get about 10 miles to the gallon, so Hunt has used about 143,000 gallons of gas, which is equal to 16 tractor trailer tanker loads. Hunt said that he switched out vehicles at around every 250,000 miles, meaning that he has had seven or eight different delivery vehicles over the years. It is impossible to get an exact number of how many pieces of mail Hunt has delivered over the span of his career, but Birk estimates that it is between 15 and 20 million.
Because Hunt is an independent contractor on a highway contract route, he is not technically a postal employee. However, his coworkers at the post office said that they consider him every bit of a postal worker.
“I’ve worked off and on with Butch for probably about 12 years,” said Birk. “He’s a model of what the rest of us would want to be, serving the public. When you do something for 46 years, that’s a long time.”
Hunt’s coworkers took time Tuesday morning to throw him a surprise retirement party before he headed out on his route. Hunt was honored with a short presentation by Birk, a meal, a cake, and a certificate of recognition with his friends, family, and coworkers present.
Hunt’s son, Nathan, said that Hunt delivering mail has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember and that he is proud of his father’s service.
“I was one year old [when he started],” Nathan said. “It was just a way of life. Retiring after 46 years, that’s a big deal.”
Bob Meyr, Hunt’s subcarrier since 1996, also gave a brief comment on working with him.
“It’s been an experience,” Meyr said with a laugh. “Whenever he was out, I would cover his route.”
Hunt did not miss often, and he took pride in doing his job to the best of his ability. According to postmaster Michael Essner, the people on Hunt’s route knew that well.
“Anybody that ever called the office wanted something from him, never complaining about him,” Essner said. “That says a lot. He’s a good guy. I’m happy for him. … He’s a great guy who has done great service for the community and the postal service.”
“I just appreciate everybody,” Hunt said as he thanked everyone for the party and the support over the years.
After eating and taking a moment to talk to his family and friends, Hunt started getting ready for his route like it was just another day. Even though he is retiring Saturday, Hunt still plans to carry out the job like normal until then.
After 46 years on the route, Hunt said that he has seen a lot of changes. He has seen farmland grow into homes and towns. He has seen older generations pass on and younger generations grow up.
“You encounter something different every day on the route,” Hunt said.
While Hunt did not give specific plans concerning his retirement, he said that he will stay busy.
“[I am going to] catch up on things I’ve neglected for years,” Hunt said. “There will be something I can find to do.”