James Alvin Gross, 76, who worked nearly 30 years with the U.S. Postal Service before retiring as a lockmaker in 1977, died Aug. 8 of cancer at Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge.

Mr. Gross, known as "Al" or "Big Al," was born in Washington and spent his earliest years on his uncle's farm in Spotsylvania County while his parents worked in the District. In 1935, he and his family moved back to Washington and settled in Georgetown. He attended Phelps Vocational Senior High School and in 1945 began working for the Post Office as a summer student.

He was called into active duty in the Army in 1946, serving in Germany and Italy as a military policeman. Three years later, he returned to the Post Office and worked mostly in the mail and equipment shop at Fifth and W streets NE. He also married in 1949.

When his four children were young, he loved roller skating and swimming, and he once swam across the Anacostia River. An enthusiastic dancer, he taught his daughter Charlene how to do the Birdland.

Mr. Gross relished the days he spent fishing from his boat all over the Washington area. He also was an avowed car nut who wanted everything perfect on his automobiles, among them a late-model yellow Cadillac convertible with eight-track tape player. He also loved hot rods and the sound of engines revving, friends and family said, and for years raced cars in Fredericksburg.

He was a resident of Woodbridge and also spent time in Spotsylvania.

His marriage to Margaret Ellen Gross ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 34 years, Lunona Tyler Gross of Woodbridge; four children from the first marriage, Alvinia Gross, Charlene Tilghman, James Gross and Charles Gross, all of Washington; four stepchildren, Marcellus Tyler, Dietra John and Beverly Williams, all of Columbia, and Karen Tyler of Riverdale; two sisters, Catherine Sneed and Brenda Gross, both of Washington; 12 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

James Alvin Gross was an outdoorsman and automobile buff who also raced cars.