By Camille Baptista
A secluded little section of Peralta Avenue was adorned with blue balloons and smiling faces Thursday morning as neighbors gathered to bid farewell to their beloved mailman of 23 years.
When mailman Mack Paige turned the corner onto the street, he said, his eyes filled with tears.
“We’ve become real good friends,” he said. “I became a part of their community.”
Paige said his priority as a postal deliverer has always been learning everyone’s names, so that he could be sure that when mail was addressed incorrectly, it would still reach its destination instead of being returned to the sender. He said the neighbors appreciated that, and it built the foundation for great friendships.
“He’s not just the guy who brings the mail,” said Conni Hempel, who, at 89, is one of the oldest residents on the block. “He’s one of the most sophisticated, informed men I’ve ever met.”
Regina Beatus, who lives on the corner of Peralta and Vincente avenues, spent the morning hanging blue balloons on trees and doorsteps up and down the block. The balloons read “Happy Retirement Mack.” Another neighbor put together a book with thank-you notes and photos of the residents.
Beatus said they’ve particularly enjoyed talking with Mack about political issues.
“He’s just been so fun to chat with,” she said.
“He’s always ready with incisive political analysis on all the news of the day,” Glen Wolkenfeld, who lives on Peralta near Portland Avenue, said.
Sean Burns, who tipped Berkeleyside to the news about the retirement, has only lived in the neighborhood for a year, but he recognizes that Mack is much loved by the community. “His brisk walk exhibits his love for health and good nutrition. His pocket-radio consistently tuned to breaking news bespeaks his passion for politics, civic engagement, and vitalizing the democratic process,” he said.
In addition to his walking his daily route, Paige said he runs the Lake Merritt loop four to five times a week, and hopes to do it more often now that he is retired. He said his mail route has been getting longer in recent years as the post office has adopted GPS technology, which makes locating addresses more efficient. Although he’s in good shape for a 65-year-old, he said he’s ready for a break.
“There comes a time in life when you need your twilight time,” he said.
Camille Baptista is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. She studies creative writing and human rights at Barnard in New York City, where she writes for the Columbia Daily Spectator.
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