Ron the Postman: 85-year-old Wetmore mail carrier plans to retire after four decades of service
WETMORE, Mich. (WLUC) - People in Upper Michigan are used to living in very rural areas.
And just like everyone else, they get mail. But who delivers it to some of the most forested areas?
For one community, they’ve relied on the same familiar postal worker for the last 40-plus years.
“People have told me that I’ve made their day, they tell me,” says Ron Curtis of Wetmore. “It’s fun.”
Fun: that’s one of Ron Curtis’ keywords.
“It is fun taking care of the people,” Curtis says.
And Ron’s tromping grounds for the last four decades has been Wetmore.
A population of about 600, he says, on a good year, with one post office.
“I enjoy it everyday because I just never get tired of riding around in the forest, for one thing, and I enjoy going to the delivering of packages and mail to the people,” Curtis says. “Who is going to be at their mailbox to gab a minute to talk about the fishing or the hunting or whatever.”
Ron is one of Wetmore’s postmen, delivering mail to 400 folks out of that 600, part of a 108-mile route that I rode along with him for.
“I’ve been doing this since high school. I started when I was 15 years old,” Curtis says. “After I graduated from high school, I went to work for GM for eight and a half years and I said that’s enough. The route started with 50 boxes only in the summertime and then there was no route delivery in the wintertime but the route kept getting bigger and I started working and we went from that 50 boxes to over 400 now and the route is 108 miles long.”
One of a few reasons Ron says he always has treats in his front pocket.
In his 41 years at the USPS, his customers range from longtime locals, recent relocators, their dogs, the occasional turkey, even a few wolves and at least one curious bear.
“I saw a bear stick his head out from the trees so I stopped,” Curtis says. “He was hiding behind the tree and he would peek out from behind the tree, you know? I saw a wolf along 13. I stopped and gave him half of my sandwich.”
“I had a turkey, a wild turkey that chased me on 440,” Curtis says. “It’s just the people and the country and the area. I never get tired of this country.”
You see, come this fall, Ron is finally calling it on his birthday.
He’s turning 86 years old.
“This last year took a toll,” Curtis says. “This was a long winter and I’m coming out of the winter tired. I want to go fishing more, anyway.”
“It’s a wonderful tribute to the community that we live when you get the chance to work with someone like Ron,” says Bill Earl, who was our first stop on Ron’s route.
Bill Earl’s been along Ron’s route for the past six to seven years.
“Very blessed to have Ron,” Earl says. “I think the cool thing is how far he goes to go above and beyond to help not just deliver mail but he’s more than that. He’s always looking for a way to make it easy and user-friendly for the customer.”
“Every time I see a car parked along the road, I stop because I know their GPS is not working,” Curtis says.
“It’s kind of funny because on the days where it is actually true, Upper Peninsula snow and blowing and cold and I’ll hear a honk on the horn,” Earl says. “It’s like you’ve gotta be kidding me! He drove up the driveway. He didn’t want to leave the mail at the end of the road and just brought it to you.”
No matter what.
Whether you are lost in the forest or the road is snowed over, Ron’s flashing orange light has always punched through.
“A lot of people that they didn’t even expect to see me,” Curtis says. “It makes you feel good. It really makes your whole day because you helped somebody.”
And when it comes to finally retiring in a few short months, Bill says he knows he isn’t the only one that will miss that orange blink.
As much Ron, himself, will miss the stories.
“It was on my route close to Christmastime,” Curtis says. “They couldn’t get into their property that they had purchased so they had their trailer out by the road. And one morning, there was a young lady, girl that was there about 9 or 10 years old. She walked up to the car and she said I had two dollars and I spent that on my mother for Christmas but I wanted you to have this and she handed me an apple. *emotional* How great is that? You can’t beat that!”
For now, Ron says the fun isn’t over.
He’s training his replacement and won’t be trading his orange light for a fishing pole until that birthday, delivering life lessons at every mailbox.
“First of all, he’s being a role model for others to follow,” Earl says. “Ron is the kind of guy that isn’t designed that way. I mean, he’s old school and he works hard. He appreciates his people as much as we appreciate him. Honestly, I believe that it is kind of a tribute to Ron that we’re all teachers and we drop our little seeds of education along life’s pathway and I really attribute that to Ron.”
“It’s not just a job,” Curtis says. “It was the friendship with the people but I’m not going anywhere and I’m sure they aren’t, either. I’ll bring Bill some fish every once in a while. It’s been a joy waiting and taking care of the Earls with their packages and their friendship, and that’s what it is all about: friendship. That’s what I’m taking away from it.”
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