Ken Cruzan normally walks 15 miles a day. But on Oct. 27, he couldn't go more than 5 feet without being stopped. Cruzan, 66, will soon retire after 40 years as a mail carrier for the United States …
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Ken Cruzan normally walks 15 miles a day. But on Oct. 27, he couldn't go more than 5 feet without being stopped.
Cruzan, 66, will soon retire after 40 years as a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service, with the last 18 years on the same route in Littleton.
In the basement of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, in the heart of Cruzan's mail route, dozens of his longtime customers wouldn't let him move far without stopping him for hugs, handshakes and warm wishes.
“It's just one of the best days I've ever had,” Cruzan said. “I'm just so humbled. This community has just gone overboard for me.”
The folks on Cruzan's route feel the same about him.
“He's everything you could ask from a mailman,” said Audrey Wenger, whose mail has passed through Cruzan's hands for years.
“He's reliable, he's great with the neighborhood dogs, and he really cares about us,” Wenger said, remembering that Cruzan always made sure to check on her after her husband died several years ago.
“And we're only now discovering how talented he really is,” Wenger said.
Staff at Holy Trinity only recently discovered that Cruzan is also the mandolin player for bluegrass band The Tuesday Night Boys. The band played at Cruzan's retirement celebration, part of the church's annual Oktoberfest gathering.
“He's a fixture of our daily lives, so it's wonderful to get to celebrate him like this,” sand Sonja Sandquist, the church's youth and family pastor. “He's woven into the fabric of our world, and he'll be very missed.”
Cruzan's still got a few months on the job — his last day will come next spring — but he's ready to hang up the mailbag. He said he's eager to focus on music and painting.
Decades carrying mail have given him some insights on life, Cruzan said.
“You learn when someone's grouchy, don't respond with your own hostility,” Cruzan said. “Ask how they're doing. Leave a bit of cheer.”
Mail carrying can be contemplative work.
“You have a lot of time to yourself — a lot of time to reflect on your life, or think about your family,” said Cruzan, a father of two.
Cruzan said as the years have gone by, he's seen families experience birth and loss, and reached out to lonely people.
“Some people, I'm the only person they'll see all day,” Cruzan said. “Some folks will wait for me, just to have someone to say hello to.”
The demands on mail carriers keep increasing, Cruzan said, making it harder to take the time to connect with residents.
In the church basement, many of Cruzan's well-wishers had one question for him: “See you Monday?”
“See you Monday,” Cruzan said.
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