This mail carrier is first class — and the residents to whom he delivers want it known.
Al Campanile, described by the Lansdowne residents along his delivery route as “professional,” “consistent,” and “kind,” is retiring from the U.S. Postal Service after 37 years. To show him how much they appreciated his years on the job, residents set out 200 bright yellow signs with “Thank you Al” typed in blue on the lawns along Campanile’s route of 10 years, all leading to his final stop on Greenwood Avenue.
There, on Monday evening, about a hundred residents gathered to surprise him with thank-you speeches, balloons, and gifts for his years of service.
“When Al is there, everything happens. Your mail gets there, it doesn’t get lost, and it doesn’t get put in the wrong mailbox,” said Virginia Maroun, the crowd cheering.
Campanile, a tall, cheery, soon-to-be 60-year-old, sporting his blue postal uniform, sun hat, and longtime tube-sock tan line, was treated like a local celebrity. People took turns sharing stories of his commitment to protecting their mail and greeting their dogs. A line snaked through the crowd, filled with balloons and lawn chairs, as neighbors eagerly waited to shake his hand and snap a photo.
Campanile, of Ridley Park, said he had suspected the neighborhood was up to something — partly because he saw fliers for the celebration in people’s mailboxes — but he was blown away by the turnout.
“This is surprising, I didn’t expect this,” he said, thanking the group, which included his wife, Terry, daughter Kelly, and son Jim.
Maroun and neighbor Caryl Carpenter began planning the celebration weeks ago after they heard of his retirement plan. They enlisted 18 block captains, who collected cards and money from 230 households along his route, and then printed the lawn signs. It wasn’t hard to recruit people to celebrate Campanile, Carpenter said; residents frequently cheered, “Anything for Al,” when they heard the plan.
They don’t want it known publicly just how much money was collected to thank the carrier, but Carpenter said it was a few thousand dollars.
Campanile’s last official day at work is Thursday, but residents didn’t want to risk him cashing in time off or bad weather spoiling the fun. He said he plans to rest for a bit, then he and his wife hope to do some traveling.
Campanile, a Southwest Philadelphia native and Drexel University alum, started working for the USPS on April 14, 1984, as a backup carrier after his mother brought home a flier about job openings. After three years of temp work, he was officially hired at the Paschall Station Post Office, and never looked back.
Neither snow nor rain nor chronic health difficulties stayed him from the swift completion of his routes. Campanile has long battled colitis and Crohn’s disease and for more than 15 years has lived with a colostomy bag. Despite painful surgeries and extended time off, he always returned to work and greeted his residents with a smile, they said.
“In this crazy time, it’s like Al is this consistent, warm presence in your neighborhood,” said Jane Rutledge, a 36-year Lansdowne resident.
Neighborhood dogs love him, too. Coe Kummer said his dog Pip often jumped into the mail truck for a belly rub.
Residents are hopeful the next carrier uses as much care and kindness as Campanile.
“Write this down,” a woman told an Inquirer reporter. “Best mailman in the world.”