The Bateman neighborhood blossomed with colorful signs early Tuesday morning, paying tribute to the area’s beloved mail carrier, Kerry Jones. Well over 100 homemade signs of gratitude, of all hues and designs, appeared throughout the area, mounted or drawn on windows, doors, benches, railings, tables, sidewalks, fences and mailboxes throughout the neighborhood — which extends south of Ashby from Telegraph Avenue to College Avenue.
The neighborhood tribute, to the man known to most of his patrons only as Kerry, was planned over the previous week through word of mouth and confidential emails circulated by neighborhood block captains.
The recipient of this outpouring of affection was clearly stunned when he started on his route Tuesday morning, but throughout the day Jones retained the high-wattage smile that has been his trademark for the 24 years he has served the neighborhood. The beaming carrier told one patron he encountered on his route that it was one of the best days of his life.
“We caught Kerry just before he was about to come up on our porch,” said one neighbor, Lucy Smallsreed. “Tim (my husband) and I saw him coming. Kerry was in utter disbelief at the neighborhood’s efforts. He said, ‘After all these years, I thought you couldn’t surprise me, but you did, you surprised me. I wasn’t expecting this! Some of these…[signs] have made me close to tears.'”
The neighbors who first suggested “Kerry Appreciation Day” said in an email that Jones is unfailingly personable and dedicated, without complaint or hesitation even as he has put himself at greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents said Jones often does double shifts, covering for absent colleagues, but, even when he’s trudging through his second route late at night, he always has a cheerful greeting for his patrons, whom he hails by name through the darkness.
Though he never complained, the gregarious carrier has clearly missed his streetside encounters with now-housebound residents.
Ilinisa Hendrickson of Benvenue Avenue wrote to another neighbor to report that, “I saw [Kerry] last week and he said that one of the things that’s been hardest about this time is not seeing people since he loves being connected. He said that he was feeling lonely and asked me to tell the neighbors to all just stick our heads out of our windows every once in a while and say hi, and let him know that we are okay.”
Residents may not have seen their carrier as frequently in recent weeks, but even as they worried about him, Jones’ continued dedication and good humor helped buoy them during the isolation. As one put it, “We are so fortunate to have Kerry as our mail carrier. Recognizing him seems long overdue and was a bright spot to me at a time when there is a lot of darkness.”
Bateman neighbor Peter Sussman told Berkeleyside that Jones’ cheerful services to the residents extended beyond the mere delivery of mail — they have helped hold them together during the public-health crisis.
“We have lived in our house for nearly 50 years,” he said, “and this is the most cohesive and collaborative I’ve seen the neighborhood. We have Kerry to thank for that.”
The photos published here are just some of the dozens that were taken by many members of the Bateman neighborhood and shared with Berkeleyside.