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POST RETIREMENT

After 31 years, WL letter carrier Ken Egbert retires; community celebration at Adult Community Center
by: Vern Uyetake, 
Ken Egbert, 56, said good-bye to the United States Postal Service on Feb. 29 after more than 31 years as a West Linn letter carrier. On Saturday, the community will celebrate his retirement at the Adult Community Center.

Ken Egbert and his wife, Susan, sit inside Starbucks in West Linn and sip coffee before taking a leisurely drive over to Cannon Beach. The couple enjoy outings together, but this day seems particularly special.

It's a Friday, and Egbert's not working.

After 31 years, nine months and six days - not that he counted - working as a letter carrier with the United States Postal Service in West Linn, Egbert retired on Feb. 29.

He watched the post office grow from 10 to 35 employees, more and more names become hyphenated and Pottery Barn become one of the most popular catalogs delivered to West Linn families.

He made life-long friends and witnessed West Linn grow up along his route at the top of Salamo Road - and he grew up with them.

On his first official day retired, Egbert, 56, said, 'it felt great.'

'I think he called me around 1:30 or 2 (p.m.) at work and told me, 'this is very strange,'' Susan chimed in. 'I'm a little concerned; he's not somebody who sits around. But we have three acres, there's always something to do.'

A celebration of Egbert's postal service will be held Saturday, from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the West Linn Adult Community Center, located at 1180 Rosemont Road.

'There's people I already miss now,' Egbert said.

But, he won't miss getting up at 4:30 a.m. to make it from his Molalla home to the West Linn office, located off Hwy. 43. Unless, of course, he's going fishing.

Egbert took his job as a letter carrier seriously.

'I looked at each piece (of mail) that I delivered. There's no reason to miss-deliver mail,' he said.

And he always wore pants.

'I don't think it looks professional to wear shorts,' he said.

Through the years, Egbert said he's gotten pretty good an interpreting handwriting. And he'd often recognize the clients on his route at the grocery store.

'It is so funny,' Susan said of when her husband isn't in uniform. 'They'll have no idea who he is. Then he'll rattle off their address to them.'

Since 1976, many things have changed.

'There's not much hand sorting done now. It's all done with bar codes and optical character readers,' Egbert said.

Now, most magazines are delivered in plastic shrink wrapping, with a label on the outside - and they don't always stick.

Sometimes, Macy's magazines with perfume samples escaped the pages and Egbert's truck smelled like perfume all day.

'Higher the income, higher the amount of mail, generally,' he said, but then changed his mind. 'For all I know, someone could be in real debt and still get a lot of mail.'

He's delivered some strange things through the years, like fish on ice in coolers from Alaska.

'There was a bail of hay, alfalfa. It was in plastic, shrink wrapped,' Egbert said. 'One time there was a patio glass door I delivered. It couldn't even fit in the truck. I dropped it off before I started my route.'

And then there's the cliché postman bitten by dogs stories; Egbert has three of them.

'One time I opened the door to deliver a certified (item) and a German Shepherd came through the door and ripped my shirt and basically got me with his nails. Another time … a dog was taking a nap under a rhododendron and jumped up and hit me right here,' Egbert said, pointing. 'Five stitches. And then there was this little poodle, they're the ones that nip at ankles.'

It's not just the animals Egbert will remember, but the people.

'He'll tell me, 'so-and-sos graduating,' and he'll get an invitation to the graduation,' Susan said. 'People bake stuff for him and get him Starbucks gift cards at Christmas.'

Cheryl Jenkins, a window clerk at the post office who has known Egbert for nearly three decades, said that since Egbert announced his retirement people from the community have been asking about him.

'One man donated $10 to Ken, out of nowhere,' Jenkins said. 'We'll miss joking with him. He's been here so long it's like having a brother around.'

Cake and refreshments will be served at Egbert's retirement party on Saturday. Egbert has been Jim and Phoebe Jensen's letter carrier for 18 years, and they organized the get-together.

'We've enjoyed his company and friendship,' said Jim Jensen, who lives off Rosemont. 'We hope that everybody comes out and says happy retirement to Ken.'

A donation jar will be available at the event to help raise funds for the Egberts to purchase new motorcycle helmets., Jensen said.

Now, Egbert said he's looking forward to taking trips on his Honda Goldwing with a post office motorcycle group.

Just two weeks into retirement, Egbert says it feels like he's on vacation.

'The nicest thing is that on Sunday night I don't have to worry about - 'do I have enough uniforms for the week?' Or, 'I have to go to work tomorrow - I can't stay up and listen to the blues show,'' Egbert said. 'Now I can.'

Contact Jim and Phoebe Jensen at 503-650-1893 with any questions about Egbert's retirement party.