Getting a straight answer from Mike Fawley can be a frustrating experience – although it’s frustration accompanied by laughter.
After 30 years, Fawley spent his final day as a clerk at the Hillsboro Post Office on Friday, enjoying the well wishes of both coworkers and a steady stream of customers throughout the day.
Fawley is known for his teasing, jovial interaction with customers who stop in to buy postage, get packages weighed, inquire about rates, or any of the many other services provided by the post office. Expecting introspective reflection is a non-starter when asking him about his work or his retirement.
Nevertheless - what does he plan to do in retirement?
Referencing the TV show “Duck Dynasty,” Fawley said he plans to grow a long beard, grab a fishing pole and sit down by the “crick.”
“Make sure to say ‘crick,’” he adds, “not ‘creek.’”
Fawley was hired in 1985 by former postmaster Wendell Harewood. On Friday, current postmaster Curtis Pegram called Fawley “the most lousy, abrasive person who ever served at a window at the post office.” Fawley said that sounded like an accurate assessment.
Pegram said Fawley would often ask customers, “Did you bring me anything to eat?” On Friday, Pegram was feted with baked goods and other culinary items that were shared with customers to make sure he had a proper send-off.
Asked why he allowed postage to increase so much during his 30 years, Fawley said, “So I can retire.”
A 1970 graduate of Lynchburg-Clay High School – “make sure to say I’m from Lynchburg,” he stresses - Fawley previously worked as a meat cutter at Kroger, and later worked at Hobart. But he found a career in the U.S. Postal Service.
In fact, Fawley’s jokes and jibes with customers were more often than not uplifting rather than put-downs. He usually found something positive and complimentary to say to whomever might be on the other side of his window.
Did he ever have problems with customers?
“All of my customers were the most beautiful, polite, gracious people in the world,” he said Friday with a straight face.
Turning serious for a minute – at most – Fawley said that, in fact, he enjoyed interacting with customers in Hillsboro, who he said were “good people.”
He said he was always impressed with the honesty of customers, who would point out if he gave them too much change or accidentally handed them an extra book of stamps.
“I’m serious, people here are really good, and honest,” he said.
Fawley and his wife of 40 years, Faye, are the parents of two children, a son, Clinton, who works in Middletown, and a daughter, Sabrina, who is graduating from journalism school.
After leveling a friendly jab or two, Pegram offered a serious assessment of his retiring coworker, shooting down any notion that Fawley might have just mailed it in during his three decades at the post office.
“He’s done it all,” said Pegram. “We can’t replace him.”