On Monday, Charles Fraijo, who goes by Chuck, made his last delivery of mail to the North Berkeley neighborhood he’s been serving for 37 years.
He will be missed.
“He’s been the epitome of loyalty, kindness and reliability,” Michael Baum, who has had his mail delivered by Fraijo for the 27 years he’s lived in the neighborhood told Berkeleyside. “As I compared stories with neighbors about Chuck’s retirement, it turns out he managed to make each of them feel special and important to him. He gave baby gifts to us when both our kids were born. What a gift and what a guy.”
Fraijo’s first day on the job at the USPS District A post office at 2111 San Pablo Ave. was Jan. 8, 1983, according to his supervisor, Teresa Gonzales, and he is now retiring.
Susan Matthews was one of several neighbors who posted signs outside their homes to thank Fraijo for his hard work and good cheer over the decades. His route, she told Berkeleyside, includes Rose Street south to Francisco Street near North Berkeley BART.
Baum and his son Ezra also made a sign for Fraijo to see on his last working day. They spelled out “Thank You Chuck” on a vibrant pink background and posted the sign on the gate of their family’s home so Fraijo would see it.
“I haven’t had the heart to take it down yet,” Baum said Tuesday. “That will truly mark the end of the Chuck era. We’ll miss him terribly, but are excited for him as he embarks on the adventure of retirement.”
Clifford Brooks lives in an apartment building on Sacramento Street at Hopkins. He described Fraijo as being so devoted to his job that Brooks often told him that he seemed like a superhero.
“As a working man, he had real integrity,” Brooks told Berkeleyside.
Brooks said he enjoyed speaking with Fraijo by the apartment mailboxes or through his kitchen window. They would chat briefly about his home life or politics. Brooks especially liked their nighttime meetings during the winter months.
“The postal department worked him hours and hours,” Brooks said. “This year, it seemed like he was having to work more than ever before. I often asked him how long could he keep up with his job’s hours? He always had a smile and would say that it had to be done.”
Residents of Brooks’ apartment building collected money to give as a gift to Fraijo and an artist who lives across the street made a “So long Chuck!” poster on which neighbors wrote messages of gratitude.
Berkeleyside contributing photographer Pete Rosos spoke to Fraijo briefly while the mail carrier was delivering his last batch of mail, and captured a portrait, but Fraijo was reticent to talk about himself. Rosos did discover, however, that Fraijo was responsible for creating a striking mural painted in 1996 on a wall of the sorting room of the Station A post office, and he managed to snap some photos of it.
The mural, which covers the lion’s share of a wall, depicts the daily life of post office workers as they collect, sort and deliver mail. On the far right, a mail carrier holds a baby aloft. Gonzales told Rosos that the figure on the far left, with long hair and her back to the viewer, is her when she first started at the post office. She said Fraijo was the one who first trained her when she got hired.
More recently, in 2019, Fraijo was one of 19 Berkeley letter carriers to be inducted into the National Safety Council “Million Mile Club,” a recognition given to mail carriers who have driven one million accident-free miles while on the job. In a statement about the achievement last year, the post office applauded the feat and described it this way: “Imagine driving the equivalent of 334 times across the country or 40 times around the earth without ever leaving the city limits and not so much as a fender bender.”
It’s not the first time Berkeleyans have paid tribute to a longstanding mail carrier when they retire. In April, the Bateman neighborhood was awash with dozens of colorful signs showing appreciation for Kerry Jones, whose trademark high-wattage smile local residents had enjoyed for 24 years.