By Jay Cook
RUMSON – John Fossetta has been delivering the mail along the winding roads of Rumson and Locust for 30 years. To the people he greets on his route, he stands out for his wide smile, upbeat personality and distinctive Jersey City accent.
But on April 27, he made the most memorable delivery of all – his final one. It was his last day as a proud United States letter carrier, and he had long planned to say goodbye in a grand way to all those he’s come to know through the years.
That morning he dressed for work as usual in the official postal blue shirt and slacks. Once at the post office at 6 Hunt St., located next to Salt Creek Grille, he swapped it out for a fitted black tuxedo – complete with a jet-black top hat, and crisp white gloves. He fixed a USPS pin on his breast pocket and set out for his final 364 stops to deliver the mail, and say his goodbyes.
“I look back on it, and you know what? I was pretty lucky with it,” Fossetta said. “I had a job, I’m going to get a pension and, most of all, I worked in a really good town.”
Fossetta began his postal career on April 25, 1987. He recalls he had interviews set up on the same afternoon with the United States Postal Service and United Airlines.
Unsure about the stability within the airline industry at that time, he decided to go with the sure thing and join the post office. His father, James, was a post office veteran in Jersey City, and his brother Frank was a letter carrier in Middletown for 34 years.
“To this day, 100 percent, I made the better choice,” Fossetta said. “And I didn’t have to commute.”
For the last 16 years he’s walked the same streets and driven the same roads for his job. Beginning on River Road, he walks from Crazees Ice Cream to Brennan’s Delicatessen and back, then hops back in his aluminum delivery truck, dated 1991 with an inordinate number of miles registered, and works his way across the Oceanic Bridge to Locust.
All in all, he spends about seven hours on the road each day before he returns to the post office and then heads to his home in Belford.
Some might think the work is monotonous, but the job has been far from boring for the gregarious Fossetta, who has had his fair share of not-so-ordinary days over three decades.
Back in the early 1990s, while driving on a different route, Fossetta was passing Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School when he saw a young woman walking across the street to school get struck by a passing car.
He pulled over and jumped out of his truck to help the young woman. While she sat there shivering that chilly morning, he took the postal shirt off his back and wrapped her in it, waiting for the paramedics to arrive. She ultimately recovered just fine, he said.
On Oct. 30, 2012, the day after Super Storm Sandy made landfall along the Jersey Shore, he recalled he was out delivering mail while everyone else was still reeling from the destruction, giving true meaning to the postal service’s creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
He remembered one homeowner along the Locust route removing tree branches from his property, just as Fossetta pulled up to the house with a coffee pot the man had ordered from Amazon.
“A lot of people are really serious about it,” he said, about a letter carrier’s dedication to the profession. “They want to do the job.”
Over the years, Fossetta has seen quite a few changes. With all of the automation, scanning and tracking associated with mail delivery, he believes the once personal, mailman-to-customer relationship is changing rapidly.
As drone services become a legitimate possibility for both rural and metropolitan America in the future, Fossetta said the mailman has played a major part in everybody’s life, at one point or another.
He remembers fondly the days of delivering a report card to a proud student, a college acceptance letter to the anxious high school senior, or a birthday card from a far-flung relative.
“You can’t see inside a card, but you can tell when there’s happiness coming to that house,” Fossetta said.
Thirty years have come and gone and Fossetta said planning for retirement was on his mind as his days on the job wound down.
He said he’s looking forward to relaxing on the golf course and getting out more often on his 22-foot Hydra Sports boat, docked at Barnacle Bill’s in Rumson. Spending a lot of time with his family is on the schedule, too. His wife, Ilona, along with children Holly and Dawn, and granddaughter Melissa, are also due to see a lot more of John, something he’s looking forward to. He knows a great spot off the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter, Florida, a restaurant called Guanabanas, where boaters can dock and dine in the palm-tree shade and relax along the river in multicolored Adirondack chairs. It’s on his list.
As for his replacement, who Fossetta does not yet know, he offered a number of tips. Some people prefer him to walk around to the driveway, rather than across their front yard, so learn their preferences. Drive carefully, because the backroads along Navesink River Road, especially in the winter, are not for the faint of heart.
And finally, you get what you give.
“I always gave extra to people,” he said, “because if you give 110 percent, you’ll get 110 percent back.”
This article was first published in the May 4-11, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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