If you’ve been to the Westport Post Office any time since the Reagan administration, you know Lou Kish.
You may not know his name. But you know his great smile, his friendly demeanor, and his solve-any-problem service.
Mary Lou Roels — one of his many grateful customers — writes:
“Do any of your articles contain anything liquid, fragile, perishable or hazardous like batteries, perfume or aerosol?”
Lou Kish, Westport postal clerk. hammers out those exact words no fewer than 50 times a day.
Yesterday — October 31 — was the last time he recited that line.
Lou is retiring after 39 years and 6 months, working for the Westport Postal Service.
He glances at the clock. “Five more hours.” he says. “Is it bad I keep looking at the clock?” He smiles, looks up. “Next?”
Lou Kish yesterday — his last day at work.
I asked about the postal service, and what it meant to him to be in a job for over 39 years.
“I had a job,” he said. “But I applied anyway. I liked the idea of the benefits. In fact, it was a pay cut. But in the long run, the benefits outweighed that pay cut.
“There were several tests to take — clerk, truck driver, carrier. I took all of them. The first to call was the position of clerk, I guess I did the best on that test. Here I am, 39 years later. I started February 1984.”
The post office has changed considerably. The Westport Postal Service used to be located at 154 Post Road. Built in 1935 with federal Treasury Department funds, it was designed by Lansing Holden, a World War I flying ace who won the Distinguished Service Cross.
In 2011 the post office building was sold to a real estate company. It housed a restaurant. Today it is Design within Reach.
Westport Post Office, on the Post Road.
“That was a beautiful building,” Lou says. “Soaring cathedral ceilings, but back then, there were 60 of us sorting mail. Today….” he turns to a co-clerk. “How many people are working here?”
Jay counts on his fingers while naming everyone: 10. Lou turns to me, “10 of us. Soon to be 9, in 4 hours, 30 minutes,” he smiles again.
I pressed him to tell me stories of the things he’s seen in the past 39+ years. He says, “ya know, funny story. Years ago, someone shipped crickets for their pet lizard or snake – well, they all got out. Chirp- chirp- chirp……oh my gosh. Crickets everywhere. But when you turned the light on, there’d be silence……we must have heard chirping for months. It was something.” “
Another story: “I wasn’t here when this package arrived on the weekend, but I came in on a Monday morning and it smelled so bad in the place. I mean awful. I thought a rodent died in here.
“It was definitely one of the packages- just didn’t know which one. So here I am going through each box, smelling each one — not that one, nope not that one. I’m getting closer though!
“Finally, I find it – it was terrible! I open the door, put that package outside, call the recipient – it was a package from South Korea. Have you ever smelled kimchi?” Kimchi is a mix of pickled and fermented vegetables, generally cabbage, carrots, radish, cucumber, scallions with garlic, ginger and fish sauce. “Oh that was bad.”
I asked what he’ll miss. As he’s getting ready to tell me, one of his longtime peers, a carrier named Nancy, walks up to offer him a farewell congratulations.
She has been a carrier for the post office for 37 years. “You’re next,” Lou points out. There’s a camaraderie here we just don’t see in company culture any longer.
Lou looks up. “I’ve really loved my work, my job. The people. You know, people come here, they expect service. I like good service, I like to give good service. t’s been so nice working here with everyone.”
As for his plans post-retirement: “My dad is still around. He lives in Florida and is 93. I’ll probably see him. Do some traveling. Go to St. John’s, St. Thomas. I’d like to cook more.”
He looks up to see two more people in line “Next? Anything liquid, fragile, perishable, hazardous?….”
He looks at me and smiles “4 more hours…..”
Happy retirement, Lou Kish! Thank you for your dedication and service. You will be missed!
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