By Kristin Schultz
Neither snow nor rain nor barking dogs have kept Dave Mennillo from his appointed rounds.
On Friday, June 23, the Niskayuna mailman hung up his satchel after 40 years of delivering letters and packages.
More than a letter carrier, Mennillo spent 35 years walking the same route and became a part of people’s lives. He watched as growing families welcomed new babies. He saw those babies grow up, graduate, move out and bring their own children back to play at grandma’s house.
“To us, Dave is our friend, part of our family and our mailman,” said Julia Kozineski. “It’s not something many could say about their mailman, but, then again, Dave isn’t your average mailman.”
Mennillo started his career with the U.S. Postal Service as a clerk at the Jay Street office in Schenectady. He quickly realized he did not want to spend his life working inside and for the next few years, he worked to get his own delivery route.
“I love being outside,” Mennillo said. “I love the heat — the hotter the better. Trudging through piles of snow will wear on you but I don’t mind the cold. It’s the rain I hate. We can put a man on the moon but we can’t invent a raincoat that works?”
If the effectiveness of USPS rain gear hasn’t changed, plenty of other things have. In the past 40 years, the way people communicate has changed dramatically. In 1977, email was almost 20 years off, Facebook was 27 years into the future and more than three decades would elapse before Snapchat came on the scene.
“Do you ever sit down and write a letter?” Mennillo asked. “Communication is now quick and instant. Christmastime is a light time of year for us because people don’t mail Christmas cards like they used to.”
Mennillo said that while letter volume is down, package volume is up. He said he used to sort through a sack of packages and now, thanks mostly to Amazon, packages take up huge containers in the office.
Amazon is also pursuing package delivery by drone which could further ding the Postal Service, but Mennillo is skeptical of the potential of unmanned parcel drops.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You could be out cutting your grass and a drone could drop a package on your head. It’s a possibility though I guess.”
Drones may be more efficient but efficiency is not what residents admire about Mennillo. Neighbors collected money for Mennillo as a retirement present. Dozens of residents signed his farewell card.
Over the course of his career, Mennillo has been bitten by a dog once and slipped on the ice a couple of times, most recently this past winter. A customer calculated that Mennillo walked around 10 miles a day. Over the course of his career, Mennillo logged enough miles to have walked around Earth 4.8 times.
Mennillo has met and gotten to know not just the people on his route, but their pets. He’s always loved dogs and the dogs love him.
“One dog on my route was so ugly she was cute,” he said. “She would tear the UPS man apart, but she loved me. I’d pet her and chat with her.”
He also comforted Kozineski when her dog died.
Mennillo also recalled walking up to a house and finding a resident sitting outside, upset as she had just received worrying news. He stopped for a few moments just to sit with and reassure her.
Neighbors returned that compassion when Mennillo himself was injured and unable to work. His wife, Sue, said residents would call the house, asking after Dave and checking on his progress.
“It’s an amazing thing,” Sue said. “Because I know who David is, caring and giving, but other people were calling here and asking about him. They missed him delivering their mail.”
When he was on the route, Mennillo just tried to be nice.
“My dad always said, ‘It’s not hard to be nice to people,’ ” he said.
Mennillo made an effort to listen to customers, address their complaints and treat everyone with respect.
Maryann Kelly has lived on Mennillo’s route for 30 years and he’s been the only letter carrier she and her family have known.
“He’s one of those guys who would always stop and talk,” Kelly said. Mennillo would chat with her boys about their baseball games and would tease them about liking Derek Jeter and the Yankees.
“I’m a fan of whichever team is playing the Yankees,” Mennillo said.
Mennillo and Kelly would talk about what was going on in their lives. If Mennillo noticed he was delivering an unusual amount of cards, he would ask Kelly if everything was OK.
“He became a friend,” Kelly said. “He loved our dogs and treated them like his own. They loved him.”
All the while, Mennillo was raising a family of his own and leading his bowling league, Vitalo Classic, to multiple championships. He is a graduate of Linton High School and has earned multiple accolades including being honored for bowling 37 straight seasons with a 200 average.
He also coached his sons’ baseball teams and taught them to bowl as well.
As a letter carrier, Mennillo always marveled at how small the world was, that for the price of a stamp the whole world was available. His own world turned out to be smaller than he thought.
Prior to working for the Postal Service, Mennillo spent a couple of years teaching. On one occasion, he gave detention to a student for being in the hall without a pass. Years later, that same student came on board at the Niskayuna post office and has taken David’s seniority spot.
In retirement, Mennillo will spend time with his family — especially at his grandson’s baseball games. He will also be more available to Sue, who suffers from a rare lung condition called lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), which requires her to see specialists in Boston.
“The best part of the job is the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve worked with. There’s been quite a cast of characters over 40 years,” Mennillo said. “There’s too many to name but they’ll all be in my heart.”