WINDHAM — After 49 years of service delivering packages and post to the residents of Windham, Richard Mullett is ready to hang up his mailbag.
Mullett began his career with the U.S. Postal Service at 25 years old. Now with a 49-year-career under his belt, he will officially retire on Tuesday. He said he chose that date because it is significant for two reasons: it’s his mother’s birthday and also the day he got home from the Vietnam War.
“I was drafted right out of high school,” Mullett said. “I think half of my senior class went to Vietnam.”
Mullett was part of the 25th Infantry Division, Tropic Lightning. Recalling how the group was ambushed constantly, he said they had the worst combat record of any crew in Vietnam. Mullett was wounded twice during his five months in combat and spent two months recovering in the hospital. His last stint in the service was spent at Fort Hood, Texas.
Among the honors he acquired during his service were two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and an Army Commendation Medal. The latter was earned by uncovering explosives buried in a village.
“We went into a village and the ground was all dug up,” Mullett said. “I said, ‘It’s really not time to be planting. I wonder what they’re burying here.’ We got to digging around and found all these rockets and explosives and everything.”
Mullett said he was relieved when he was hired at the Windham Post Office. Prior, he had spent time working at the former Ravenna Arsenal and a car plant in Twinsburg. A lifelong resident of Windham, he was glad to have a shorter commute.
When he began working, stamps cost eight cents and postal workers in the community went everywhere on foot.
“When I started, we didn’t have the vehicles,” Mullett said. “We walked the whole town. For the first four years, I worked here, we didn’t have a vehicle. We got one Jeep. Now we have three LLVs (long life vehicles, which are the traditional-looking mail trucks). They keep saying we ‘don’t have any mail.’ I say, ‘How do we keep getting bigger trucks?’”
For the first 35 years of his career, Mullett said he worked six days a week, persevering in severe weather to deliver mail to the 600 people on his route. He said in 49 years, he took only a day and a half off: a full day when a mail truck got in a pileup and a half-day during the blizzard of 1978.
“I used to laugh when we’d hire these new people and they’d say, ‘Oh my gosh, I got a wedding to go to,'” he said. “It’s nice working in a small office, we don’t have to put up with a lot of things they have to put up with in bigger offices. But you’re not going to get off when you want to get off. The mail has got to go.”
Now, Mullett looks forward to spending time watching his grandchildren. He’ll still be in Windham, however, and said he’ll revisit the post office on occasion. His coworkers fondly remember him bringing chocolates and sweets on special occasions and holidays. Windham Postmaster Cathy Stowers said he would bring in dark chocolate special for her because she considered milk chocolate to be too sweet.
“I’m kind of sad to see him go, but happy at the same time,” Stowers said. “He’s been dependable. I can always count on Richard for whatever what. I think it’s time for him to transition into this second part of his life and be happy.”
Scott Rauch, manager of postal operations, presented Mullett with a certificate in recognition of his 49 years of service.
“I wish to join with your friends and your coworkers to extend my personal wishes for a happy and well-deserved retirement,” Rauch said. “Service such as yours shows others the dedication to a job and titles. Of that, you can be very proud.”
Reporter Kaitlyn McGarvey can be reached at email@example.com or 330-298-1127