Neither snow nor rain nor heat kept letter carrier Bob Thornby from his appointed rounds in the North End of Manchester.
But starting Tuesday, retirement did.
Thornby, 58, walked his last route on Monday, ending a career of nearly 36 years that involved four states, 10 cities, seven post offices and 15 zip codes.
“It’s hard work, but it comes easy to me,” Thornby said Monday morning as he delivered mail to homes and businesses that occupy the Victorian homes on Chestnut Street near Webster.
He worked nimbly, fitting letters into mailboxes, scanning packages, even using memory to maneuver sidewalk upheavals and weak stair planks.
“He goes the extra mile,” said Anne Rosselot, who was working at the Immigration + Solutions law firm on Chestnut Street. Thornby will knock on the door to take the office mail and has even waited while Rosselot stamps the mail
“He says hi to everybody,” said Milena Linehan, who was also working at the office.
Thornby, who grew up in the Queens section of New York City, said he was living in Texas and working at a chemical factory in the early 1980s when he took the postal service examination.
He started in Dallas, then moved to West Palm Beach, Fla., where he met his wife while delivering mail. His followed his wife — New Hampshire native and WZID radio personality Peggy James — back to New Hampshire.
He first worked out of Lawrence, Mass., and then landed the Manchester job.
Given his seniority, Thornby got his choice for just about any route in the Manchester-Bedford-Hooksett district. He selected the North End route, which has about 350 addresses.
“It’s nice and flat,” he said.
This has been his 36th Christmas season delivering mail. He’s witnessed a lot of changes, most related to the Internet.
Love letters, paper bills and first-class mail are down; but packages from on-line retailers are up, according to Stephen Doherty, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service.
“The makeup of the mail has changed, but there’s more mail now than 10 years ago,” Doherty said.
In fact, Amazon Sunday is a new term in postal lingo, a day devoted to delivering only packages. The postal package office out of Perimeter Road handles as many as 3,000 packages on Sunday, Thornby said.
Thornby said overtime is plentiful; he generally works 50 to 55 hours a week.
And he said the pay is good. Given his years on the job, he pulls down a little more than $60,000 before overtime.
Thornby is one of 503,000 people employed across the country as full-time career letter carriers, Doherty said. Another 141,000 are non-career employees.
“You know any young kids looking for a job? They’re always hiring,” Thornby said. The requirements include drug testing, a high school diploma and good driving record.
All new hires start as non-career employees and will eventually convert to career as positions open up, Doherty said. Sometimes it takes only a matter of months.
The job has some benefits — the walking helps to keep the 6-foot, 1-inch Thornby at a trim 170 pounds. There are drawbacks: dog confrontations (two bites in his career); the near-misses with bicycles and automobiles; repetitive stress injuries from sorting (he’s been spared, however); and black ice.
Thornby said he stayed on the job longer than he planned because he likes his fellow letter carriers. And he’s happy when he’s walking his route, he said.
But does he like his job?
“Like’s a strong word,” he said. “Some workers are described as disgruntled. I’ve always said I’m gruntled.”