COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Following decades of service in the ever-changing New England weather, a postal carrier is calling it a career.
For 34 years, Tom Valletta has been a fixture in Coventry, delivering millions of letters, packages and everything in between during his time with the U.S. Postal Service.
“You always fantasize about your retirement,” he said. “Now it’s here and you look back and say, ‘did I really want it to come this fast?’ And now I’ve got less years in front of me, too.”
Tom said when he was first hired, he felt like he had hit the jackpot.
“I can honestly say, for most of my career, when I used to go away on vacation for a couple of weeks, I actually looked forward to going back to work,” he said. “Getting back on the road, getting that walking in and saying ‘hello’ to the customers I see every day, and it was a very pleasant experience for me.”
He said time has gone by really fast, but he’s loved spending more than half of his adult life serving the people of Coventry.
“As I like to say, if I can be a part of someone’s childhood memories and those memories happen to be pleasant memories, that gives me fulfillment that my job was worthwhile,” he added.
Tom said he both walks and rides around various neighborhoods each day, dropping off roughly 414 deliveries at a time. Overall, he’s delivered an estimated 17 million pieces of mail throughout his career.
He also said he’s logged more than 110,000 miles over the years, and not all of those were on warm, sunny days.
When it comes to making deliveries in the rain, snow, oppressive heat and freezing cold, Tom said you just “learn to deal with it.”
“It’s kind of like jumping into a cold pool after a while,” he said. “You just get used to the waters and then you just accept that you’re going to be freezing all day or you’re going to be hot. You get through it.”
Tom said while the pandemic isn’t the only reason he’s decided to retire, it is part of it.
“Over the last year, all of the friendly faces have disappeared. They’re covered with masks,” Tom said. “So all you see are two eyes popping out at you.”
“You can’t smile at people anymore. A lot of the streets have thinned out,” he continued. “There’s no one tooting at you as they go by, and for the first time I said, ‘this is just a job’ and I wasn’t enjoying it as much.”
Tom’s first day of retirement is May 1. When asked what he plans to do in retirement, Tom said he’s probably going to do some odds and ends around the house. He also hopes to deliver flowers part-time.
“You have to enjoy life,” he said. “I’m going to take every day at a time, and I hope the days ahead of me fly by as fast as the ones behind me.”