In this day and age, people seldom have the same person deliver their mail each day, let alone know the name of their mail carrier. That has not been the case for the slice of Oak Park that Reginald Love calls his postal route. Now that he is hanging up his mail sack, those who live along Love’s route are showering the beloved mail carrier with appreciation for his constant friendship and dependability.
“It’s not just the mail part – he does the job, but it went so much further than that,” said Bridget Roth, who lives on Love’s route.
Love is retiring from the U.S. Postal Service after 30 years, 28 of which he spent delivering mail in Oak Park. He has been on his current route for 24 years, traveling several blocks of Carpenter, Kenilworth, Clinton Avenues and one block of Home Avenue with his cart. All along the way, he knows everyone by name.
And everyone knows him. A flood of readers independently wrote to Wednesday Journal to share the many ways Love has touched their lives as a mail carrier, but mostly as a friend. He is even considered by many a member of the family, standing by them through some of life’s happiest and hardest times.
“I’ll miss them all,” Love told Wednesday Journal.
He poured his compassion into his job. When Roth’s elderly parents lived across from her, Love would sit on the porch with her father and chat. After her father died, Love paid special care to Roth’s mother when dropping off the mail.
“He always checked to make sure that she answered the door when he rang the doorbell so that she was okay,” Roth recalled.
Love, whom Roth described as an “extraordinary person,” also showed up for her parents after they passed away, attending the respective services of her father and mother, as he did for others on his route.
“He is part of the community in a way that you don’t see very often,” said John O’Brien, who also gets his mail delivered by Love. “Everybody knows Reggie.”
Some people have had Love carrying their mail for decades; others have only known him for a handful of years. Yet all share a special bond with Love, who cares deeply about them all too.
“They take care of me and I take care of them,” Love said.
Either professionally printed or handmade, signs wishing Love a happy retirement decorate almost every lawn on his 13-block delivery route. The staggering number of displays is further proof of the extent to which the mail carrier is loved but Love himself was taken by surprise by the visual fanfare.
“I was really, really shocked,” he said. “It was really heartwarming that people think of me like that and care for me that much.”
The Saraceno family, who live on the corner of Kenilworth Avenue and Jackson Boulevard, have a sign out facing each street, so people driving along both get the message.
Steven Saraceno and Love have become close friends throughout the years, sharing a mutual love of fast cars. The two hang out regularly at Town and Country Motors, where Love gets his car repaired. Saraceno and the owners of the auto shop threw Love a little retirement party, surprising him with a cake.
Love goes above and beyond for all on his postal route. In his cart, he carries treats for the cats and dogs, calling them all by their names. He even keeps peanuts to feed the squirrels, who come out to greet the mail carrier as he delivers mail.
“You’ll start seeing the squirrels gathering by him,” said Saraceno. “It’s pretty funny.”
A regular attendee of block parties and neighborhood barbecues, Love watched children grow from infancy into adulthood. Now that he’s retiring, Love plans to spend as much time as possible with his 5-month-old granddaughter.
Annagrace Vargo, one of the many who reached out to Wednesday Journal, remembers Love always buying cookies from her during her Girl Scout days. Her father John Vargo wants to throw a giant party for Love with each household on the route bringing by a six-pack of beer to toast his retirement.
Love takes great pride in his work, always walking the mail up and depositing it safely into mailboxes. For those without boxes, he bundled mail up with rubber bands, tucked the parcel neatly inside porch doors. Those rubber bands, he shared with the neighborhood kids.
One person on John O’Brien’s block started asking neighbors for the rubber bands Love had given away over time. Those bands have been turned into a ball and framed in a three-dimensional shadow box that will be given to Love on his last day.
The kindly mail carrier has that truly special quality of making every individual he meets feel significant, even during the briefest encounters. Angela Jagust shared a memory of Love asking a little boy in the neighborhood how his math was coming along. Jagust’s two-year-old daughter knows Love by name.
“He’s just so lovable and so personable,” she said.
Jagust started getting emotional talking about Love and how integral his presence had become to her family in the seven years he has been delivering their mail. It’s a testament to the mail carrier that he built such deep connections with the people along his route, despite many only knowing him as Reggie. When Jagust learned his last name was Love, she burst into tears.
“That’s so fitting,” she said.