Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Special Delivery

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Special Delivery

Article excerpt

RIDGEWOOD – Hundreds of neighbors packed into the banquet hall of St. Elizabeth's church. Presents were stacked up on a fold-out table. Cake was cut. A DJ blared Journey's tale of working-class love, "Don't Stop Believin'." But no bride or groom was in sight.

The man of the hour: Bill Olave. The occasion, a thank you from the residents whose lives he touched over 17 years serving the same mail route on the West Side.

Being a mailman, Olave said, is "more than putting pieces of paper in tin boxes."

While retirement is hardly in the works for the 52-year-old Ridgewood resident, a recent shakeup across the U.S. Postal Service required local offices to combine routes, shifting Olave to a new neighborhood.

The shindig at St. Elizabeth's on Wednesday night was originally intended as a farewell to Olave, but brokenhearted residents led a hashtag campaign and flooded the local post office with letters urging the brass to keep him where he was. Olave was eventually able to parlay his 30 years at the office to retain much of his existing route. In the end, "Mr. Bill," as he's known to his younger customers, agreed to take on two new streets and lose only two.

Thus, what had started as a farewell soon became a simple celebration of a man loved by so many, including the dogs. Or perhaps more than anyone, the dogs.

Olave keeps a bag of treats alongside his mail bag on every shift.

"When dogs hear the mail truck, they run up the street," Terri Wiatrak of Sherwood Road said last month when news of the rerouting first broke. Olave will walk the dogs back to their homes as he makes his way down the street delivering mail, she said, because he knows where each one lives.

Wiatrak said Olave once told her about a Jackson Terrace family whose dog needed to be put down: "They called Bill because they wanted their dog to see him one last time."

"The whole family brought the dog to my truck as I was out on my route," Olave said at Wednesday's party. "I've known the dog 12 or 15 years. It was a sad moment."

Fellow Sherwood Road resident Peggy Faath said of her small retriever, Codey: "This dog could pull me down to Ho-Ho-Kus when he sees a mail truck."

It's not just dogs that are ebullient at Olave's arrival. As though in his white truck, he were the Good Humor man trundling down the street on a hot summer afternoon, the next-smallest residents on his route go wild.

Olave always keeps lollipops on hand for the children. "A giant bag in his car," Wiatrak said, holding her hands a foot apart.

Olave was clear that while he appreciates the show of support, he wanted any residents he may be leaving behind to know that the change was nobody's fault.

"What happened in the post office, it's not personal," he said. "It affected everybody.

"They took two routes out of the office, and what they do is they feed those two streets that the route is on into a computer. …

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