Wednesday, June 30, 2010;
Chester Reed, 95, the oldest employee of the U.S. Postal Service, retires Wednesday after 37 years at the San Bernadino, Calif., Processing and Distribution Center.
Reed worked as a mark machinist, mail handler and forklift operator. Colleagues plan to toast Reed's departure with cake and ice cream and by giving him a leather NASCAR racing jacket with the Postal Service logo, sent by Postmaster General John E. Potter. Reed loves cars.
Reed, who is hard of hearing, spoke Tuesday by telephone with the assistance of plant manager Mary Brunkhorst:
Why did you decide to retire now?
I figured I don't have too many years left and, who knows, I could go tomorrow. My son, he likes to travel, and I'd like to do some traveling and he's a good traveling companion. He's kind of my right-hand man, so I don't know, the Good Book says there's a time for everything. . . .
My plans right now are to finish my tour of Scandinavia, to visit Russia, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. We're just going to try to make a round run and see everything that I've never seen before. (He also wants to see the Taj Mahal in India. He has visited the Great Wall of China and Rio de Janeiro, where he hang-glided at 93.)
What did you do before the Postal Service?
For 25 years I was in the Air Force, before there was an air force (it was the Army Air Corps).
So why did you decide to join the Postal Service?
I like activity and I had a lot of time on my hands. When I first went to the post office in Riverside, they were interviewing a lot of people and it just so happened that they had an opening on the very day that I came in.
What's been your favorite part about the job?
I don't really have a favorite part, I liked all of it.
You never took a sick day in your 37 years. Have you ever worked sick?
Nope, I'm pretty healthy. . . . I eat onion sandwiches. It's very simple: You take two slices of bread, you put a lot of mayonnaise on either slice, then you cut a great big slice of onion and put it in between. The vinegar and the mayonnaise will kill the heat in the onion, and then you'll have a delicious sandwich, which is very healthy.
What did you drink with that?
Is there anything better than water?
Do you remember how many bosses you had in 37 years?
No, I sure don't, because most of them have been retired for a long time. Didn't keep score on that.
What do you make of the current financial condition of the Postal Service? Any advice on how it can survive?
That's not in my department, but I think one thing the Postal Service could do is to cut out Saturday delivery. We do Saturday delivery all over the nation, and it costs a lot of money. I would never miss it, I don't think most people would. Businesses might, but personally I think if I was the postmaster I'd cut it off right now.
-- Interview by Ed O'Keefe