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What’s the retirement plan of a man who has driven more than one million accident-free miles on the job? For Julian Ralph Easterday III and wife, Ruth, the answer is jump in their Dodge Roadtrek and hit the road for a few thousand more. A million if they are lucky, Easterday says.
Their goal is to visit every national park in America. So far, they’ve already camped at about a quarter of them.
August 1 marked the end of Easterday’s 42-year run with the U.S. Postal Service, begun in 1977, not far from where he grew up.
On a 13-acre farm on Harness Creek near Spa Road, the Easterday family grew much of what it ate. Easterday learned early to work to put food on the table and to do the job well. That ethic has served him well in his long career, making him a reliable and recognized worker — and a well-known and beloved member of the community.
“Ralph has always been somebody you can rely on to be there for you, his lifelong friend Alan Krissoff said. “He’s always believed that you should treat people the way you want to be treated.
“The thing about being a mail carrier is that you see people live. They are born, they die and you become invested in the neighborhood,” Krissoff said. Following Easterday’s advice, Krissoff has had his own 30-plus year career with the Postal Service. So he knows whereof he speaks. “Ralph actually knows people, not just people on Facebook, he knows people.”
For Easterday, delivering the mail was much more than dropping off envelopes and packages in mailboxes: It was working for a huge community of family and friends. He wrote each of them to tell them he would be retiring.
I had the good fortune of delivering mail when it was a major mode of communication. Because of this, through your letters and parcels, I not only got to know you, but other immediate friends and family as well. Your cards told me the happiness of birthdays and anniversaries, the wishes of health in sickness and hospital stays. I saw the congratulations of new arrivals and condolences of death. Your postcards even took me on vacation with you and I appreciate all that were sent to me.
–Julian Ralph Easterday III
Halfway through his postal career, Easterday’s customers threw a mailbox shower to celebrate the birth of his son Tyler, now 24. They decorated mailboxes and filled them with gifts for the new family. Easterday still gets a kick out of The Capital’s headline about the birth: Postal Service Worker’s Wife Delivers Male.
Easterday came to the Postal Service by chance, deciding after a year of living on his own that maybe his parents had been right after all. His first job was with the Eastport Post Office, where his route was his own neighborhood. When the job for a rural carrier in Riva opened, he applied.
His first route ran south from West Street across the Riva Bridge to Central Avenue and back. It was eventually shortened to cover Riva south of the Riva Bridge, starting near Mike’s.
“Back then, Mike’s was just a bar, where the deli is now. And before I came, the Riva Post Office was in a trailer in the parking lot,” he recalls of the changing neighborhood.
“Being a rural carrier meant I didn’t need to wear a uniform, and my day lasted until all of the mail had been delivered,” he explained. “Riva is still considered a rural route, even with all the development.”
By Easterday’s arrival, the post office was in its present location, behind the firehouse on Riva Road. Recently, however, Easterday picked up his route from the Edgewater Post Office, where bar-coded mail is now sorted for delivery.
Why retire after 42 years instead of 40 or 45?
The number 42 is significant in a book he likes, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe, where the “answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.”
It’s also, he says, the jersey number of baseball’s great Jackie Robinson — and the only number that has been retired from that game.
Easterday and his wife plan to continue their long-shared love of camping and the outdoors.
“We’ve slept in everything from yurts to air mattresses,” he says, but now they’ll go in comfort in a Dodge Roadtrek. The idea of driving another million miles doesn’t seem so bad, Easterday said, considering that it won’t be looking out the mirror of a mail truck.
He said he often thanks his wife and family, including his 87-year-old father, who still golfs twice a week, and his late mother for their love and support. He says his chiropractor, Eric May, has kept him on the road, with ministrations and manipulations that have kept Easterday moving long after others might have dropped.
As for the rest of us, Easterday has one request and admonition, included as a P.S. in his farewell note:
If I could ask one thing of you, it would be this. The world is small. Life is short, please introduce yourself to your neighbors. We are in this together.