When Danny Butler stopped by The Times-Gazette on Thursday afternoon, he was wearing his United States Postal Service uniform and an ear-to-ear grin that many of his customers will remember for years to come.
The local postman will put on the same uniform, and probably the smile, too, when he walks his route for the last time Friday after nearly 27 years with the USPS in Highland County, leaving behind many happy customers – and dogs – along the way.
“It’s just been a really rewarding experience,” Butler said. “Lots of good people, lots of good dogs.”
Contrary to the popular stereotype, Butler said he loves dogs and has always had a good relationship with the canines along his route, mostly because of the treats he gives them as he delivers mail to their owners.
“I love my dogs,” he said. “I carry dog treats with me and take care of the dogs along my route.”
Butler happily recalled a dog named Sassy on Glen Street that would trot alongside him for most of his route, and how he would have to take it home at the end of the day.
“That was about 10 years ago,” he said.
Butler said he’s worked in various capacities in the uptown area for about 40 years, at one point as a milkman delivering milk to area schools and residences.
In 1991, Butler said, he started at the Lynchburg Post Office as a clerk, and eventually became a postman in Hillsboro.
“It’s just been a good experience all around,” he said. “I like people, I’ve worked with a bunch of great people, and that’s really rewarding.”
Butler said he’s been slowed down a few times, once due to a knee replacement and again when he had open-heart surgery 16 years ago.
“I was walking on Josie Avenue and I started having some discomfort in my chest,” he said. “I thought it was just acid reflux, but it turned out to be a blockage in two artieries.”
After a triple bypass surgery, Butler said, he got right back on the route.
“Been fine ever since,” he said. “God’s been really good to me… I’ve just had a good time. Hillsboro is a great town with great people.”
One of Butler’s customers decided to give Butler a memorable last day by giving many people along his route sidewalk chalk to write thank-you messages.
Amy Schneider, office manager at the Highland County Veterinary Hospital, told The Times-Gazette that she wanted to return the favor for the joy Butler has brought to the residences along his route.
“I’ve been out all week running around, trying to run his route when I’m not at work,” Schneider said, adding that she saw firsthand the impact Butler has had on his customers.
“I learned that everybody loves Danny. Everybody,” she said. “I explain who I am and why I’m there, and they so, ‘Oh, Danny! He’s the best!’ It just seems there’s sort of this overwhelming sense of love for Danny, and I don’t really know why, it’s just his personality, I guess… So we all just wanted to acknowledge the fact that he’s retiring and celebrate that he lives here and is part of this community.”
Schneider said she’s happy for Butler and his retirement, but he’ll certainly be missed along his route – particularly by the dogs.
“I think the dogs are going to miss him a lot, because he’s always carrying those dog treats around in his pockets,” she laughed. “So all the dogs in the neighborhood always look forward to seeing him… But I think Danny retiring is something that’s sort of bittersweet. He’ll be happy to relax, but we’ll all miss him a lot.”
Butler said he plans to relax and enjoy life in retirement, and also to marry his fiancé, Sandy Roser, who taught at the old Webster School for about 35 years.
“We’ve been engaged now for a number of years, and people are starting to talk, so I guess we’d better do it,” he joked. “She’s been a big inspiration to me… And I’d just want to thank all my customers and all the people I’ve worked with for letting me a part of their lives.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.