MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) – Upper Michigan residents are used to living in very rural areas.
And like everyone else, they receive mail.
But who delivers it to some of the more forested areas?
For a community, they’ve relied on the same familiar postal worker for the past 40+ years.
“People told me I had their day, they tell me,” says Wetmore’s Ron Curtis. “It’s funny.”
Fun: this is one of Ron Curtis’ key words.
“It’s fun taking care of people,” Curtis says.
And Ron’s playground for the past four decades has been Wetmore.
A population of about 600, he says, in a good year.
…A post office.
“I like it every day because I never get tired of riding in the forest, on the one hand, and I like going to deliver packages and mail to people,” Curtis says. “Who’s gonna be at their mailbox chatting a minute to talk about fishing or hunting or whatever.”
Ron is one of Wetmore’s letter carriers, delivering mail to 400 of those 600, part of a 108 mile route I traveled with him.
“I’ve been doing this since high school. I started when I was 15,” Curtis says. “After I graduated from high school, I went to work for GM for eight and a half years and said enough was enough. The route started with 50 boxes only in the summer, then there was no route delivery in the winter, but the route kept getting bigger and I started working and we passed from those 50 boxes to over 400 now and the route is 108 miles long.
One of the few reasons Ron says he always has treats in his front pocket.
In his 41 years at the USPS, his clients have ranged from longtime residents, recent movers, their dogs, the occasional turkey, even a few wolves and at least one curious bear.
“I saw a bear poking its head out of the trees, so I pulled over,” Curtis said. “He was hiding behind the tree and he was peeking behind the tree, you know? I saw a wolf along the 13. I stopped and gave him half my sandwich.
“I had a turkey, a wild turkey that chased me on 440,” Curtis says. “It’s just the people, the country and the region. I never tire of this country.
You see, this fall, Ron is finally calling her on her birthday.
He celebrates his 86th birthday.
“This past year has taken its toll,” Curtis says. “The winter was long and I come out tired from the winter. I want to go fishing more anyway.
“It’s a wonderful tribute to the community we live in when you get the chance to work with someone like Ron,” says Bill Earl, who was our first stop on Ron’s route.
Bill Earl has been following Ron’s path for six or seven years.
“Very lucky to have Ron,” Earl said. “I think what’s cool is how far he goes to go above and beyond to not only help deliver the mail, but he’s more than that. He is always looking for a way to make it easy and customer friendly.
“Whenever I see a car parked along the road, I pull over because I know their GPS isn’t working,” Curtis says.
“It’s kind of funny because on the days that it’s really true, it’s snowing and blowing and cold in the Upper Peninsula and I hear a horn honk,” Earl said. “It’s as if you were making fun of me!” He walked up the aisle. He didn’t want to leave the mail at the end of the road and just brought it to you.
…No matter what.
Whether you’re lost in the forest or the road is snowy, Ron’s flashing orange light always pierces through.
“A lot of people didn’t even expect to see me,” Curtis says. “It makes you feel good. It really makes your whole day because you helped someone.
And when it comes to finally retiring in a few months, Bill says he knows he’s not the only one missing that flash of orange.
As much as Ron, himself, will miss the stories.
“It was on my way to Christmas,” Curtis says. “They couldn’t get into their property that they had bought, so they had their trailer by the side of the road. And one morning there was a young woman, a girl about nine or ten years old. She walked up to the car and said I had two bucks and spent it on my mom for Christmas, but I wanted you to have this and she handed me an apple. *emotional* Is that great? You can’t beat this!
For now, Ron says the party isn’t over.
He’s training his replacement and won’t trade his orange light for a fishing rod until this anniversary, delivering life lessons to every mailbox.
“First of all, he’s a role model for others to follow,” Earl says. “Ron’s the kind of guy that’s not designed that way. I mean, he’s old school and he works hard. He appreciates his people as much as we appreciate them. Honestly, I think that is kind of a tribute to Ron that we’re all teachers and that we drop our little seeds of education along the way in life and I really attribute that to Ron.
“It’s not just a job,” Curtis said. “It was friendship with people but I’m not going anywhere and I’m sure neither are they. I’ll bring Bill some fish from time to time. It’s been a joy to wait and take care of the Earls with their packages and their friendship, and that’s what it’s all about: friendship. That’s what I get out of it.”
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