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The Marshall of this town

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By Brandon Mattingly

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

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That’s the well-known (though unofficial) creed that is engraved outside of the James A. Farley Post Office building in New York City. For many with the United States Postal Service, that motto leads as an example of what to strive for in their careers. For Marshall Simpson, it’s simply the natural way of things.

Simpson’s roots in Washington County go back a long way. He lived in Mackville until the age of two, when his family relocated to Mercer County. Though he has since called Mercer County home, Springfield adopted him as one of their own 20 years ago.

Before taking over a route in Springfield, Simpson began working as a mail carrier on Nov. 27, 1982 in Lancaster. He worked there for 10-and-a-half years before transferring to this community in August of 1993. Over the last 20 years, Simpson said he’s come to consider Springfield as a second home.

“I really do. I know a lot of people in Springfield, especially on my route and just around town. Somebody asked me if I’d ever move to Springfield and I said that I probably would if it ever came about some time. When you first come in, you’re a stranger and people think, ‘Well, who’s this guy?’” Simpson said. “Over time, it’s become, ‘You can’t retire. We’d be lost without seeing you every day.’ It’s good to know that people think that much of you and appreciate the service that you give them.”

While retiring isn’t currently in the cards for Simpson, plenty of recognition is. Last Friday, co-workers and employers gathered at the Springfield Post Office to surprise Simpson with the news that he’d earned the Million-Mile Award for 30 years of accident-free service. Perhaps even more impressively, however, Simpson was recognized for accumulating a whopping 3,000 hours of sick leave. To put that into perspective, Springfield Postmaster Trae Purdom pointed out that a standard work year has 2,080 hours.

Rosemary Miller, manager of post office operations for the region, helped present Simpson with the honors last week. She said Simpson managed to top even herself in striving to be on the job every single day.

“I have close to 700 employees and you’re the top in my area. Over 80 post offices and Marshall is leading; even above me, but I’m second,” Miller said with a laugh.

Simpson has made a concerted effort for more than three decades to miss as few days as possible, even showing up to clock in just one day after breaking his collarbone in an accident at home. Though he couldn’t walk his route, Simpson found ways to pitch in back at the office. Fellow carrier Gene Boone said what Simpson has been able to accomplish is worth taking a moment to appreciate.

“It’s incredible. It’s a very physical job,” Boone said. “Lots of people think you just ride around and stop and drop mail here and there. It’s very physical to come in and beat your body up that many years in a row like that.”

As Springfield’s only two city carriers, Simpson and Boone walk upwards of 10 miles around town every day, exposed to whatever elements the day brings for six-and-a-half to seven hours.

“I try not to miss. There are days—I’m sure everybody is that way—where you don’t think you can go in because you just don’t feel like it,” Simpson said. “It gets a little tough when it’s 10 degrees or there’s six inches of snow or it’s 100 degrees, because I got too hot a couple of times. But I love my job. I guess that’s the reason I show up every day, because it’s something I like to do.”

Still, even more impressive than Simpson’s accident-free record or his unmatched accumulation of sick leave, is the attitude with which he does his job on a daily basis.

“Marshall is the same way every day. He walks in, and if it’s raining, he’s smiling. If it’s 100 degrees, he’s smiling. If it’s 10 below, you’ll catch him smiling,” Purdom said. “People see that he’s there every day. They see him smiling when he comes through the back door and he has nothing but good things to say. He is a role model.”

Simpson agreed that he wants the younger mail carriers to take note of what he’s been able to accomplish, but his philosophy on why he keeps a positive attitude is the real takeaway for younger generations.

“I think if you treat people nice and courteous, they’ll return the favor to you. I kind of go with that motto. I’ve had the fortune of being around a lot of good people,” Simpson said. “Some of the other carriers out there are 20 years younger than me, maybe 25. They’ll eventually be here, and maybe they’ll see this and it will be something that they strive to get.”

Though the job has had its share of physical challenges, none match the emotional struggle Simpson said he fought through when his mother and father passed away five years ago and four months ago, respectively.

“It kind of changes your life. Me and my sister were talking this past week about how it’s just different not having your parents around anymore,” Simpson said. “Now you’re going to have to take the lead to keep your brothers and sisters together.”

Purdom said Simpson’s devotion to his job and to his father during the months that he was sick was a true indicator of Simpson’s character.

“Before his father passed, he’d carry his route, then he’d go over to the Harrodsburg (Post Office) and help them, then at night he’d go take care of his father.”

Whether its his family—wife, Jody, son, Corey and daughter, Kelly—co-workers or community members, Purdom said Simpson treats every person he meets with the same amount of respect as the last. He also said that Simpson does much more than is expected of him, down to getting to work early to shovel snow off the post office sidewalk before trekking 10 miles through the snow himself.

“He goes a step beyond,” Purdom said. “If somebody is sick, he makes sure he takes the mail inside. If somebody broke a leg or it’s bad weather and it’s an older person, he’ll take their trash cans around back for them. When Marshall is gone for a week, people start calling my office wanting to know if he’s OK. I’ve never had that happen anywhere I’ve been.”

Again, Purdom said Simpson’s positive attitude has an even bigger impact than the favors he performs for customers. In fact, Simpson is able to please even the most cynical of the post office’s critics.

“Even if you’re a jerk, if somebody has a kind word for you, it makes you feel good. Even if you’re having the worst day and you’re mad, if somebody out of their way has an act of kindness toward you, it turns your whole day around. Marshall affects 600 to 700 people a day,” Purdom said. “Some people don’t care about the mail, while some people care about how you walk on their yard or how you put the mail in their box. Because Marshall treats them with such respect and with a kind word and a smile, those people that are hard to please, Marshall easily pleases them.”

Though appreciative of the award, Simpson was quick to point out that “there are other people out here who have worked through being sick or through times they had family who was sick.” That could also be attributed to Simpson, however, as Purdom said the city carrier’s “infectious attitude” has prevailed through times when another employee may be slacking in the attendance or attitude department. Regardless of how much responsibility Simpson has been in building the friendly atmosphere around the Springfield Post Office, he said he just knows that the group has become extremely close over the years. He even went as far as to refer to the group as brothers and sisters without the fighting.

“When you have 10 or 12 people, you just become friends,” he said. “Even outside the office, anybody would do anything they could to help me if I needed it. When my dad passed away—and my mom—they were there.”

Purdom has traveled the state observing city-carrier routes, and he maintains that Springfield’s duo of Simpson and Boone is the best around.

That’s quite the nod of the head in light of Miller sharing last week that the Kentuckiana postal region is rated No. 2 in national performance assessment to only Honolulu.

“To hear that when you’re trying to just provide for your customers means a lot. We’re trying to regain the prestige that the postal service had a few years back,” Boone said of Purdom’s comment. “Between Marshall and myself, we cover the whole city. If you stop and think about that, it’s a pretty good chunk of land there.”

“That makes you want to do your job even better,” Simpson said. “If he thinks that, then you want to actually try to be number one.”

The only question for Simpson is how long he wants to continue being the best. Eligible for full-benefit retirement on May 19, 2015, many of the customers along his route have wondered if their time with their favorite mail carrier is coming to an end.

Purdom said he’s seen several long-time carriers wake up one morning and realize it needed to be their last day on the job, and he said Simpson may have the same realization one day. Simpon, however, said he hasn’t reached that point yet.

“Right now, I’m in good enough health that hopefully I can do it a few more years,” he said. “I could say five years and it’s only two. I could say five years and it ends up being 10, but I’m hoping I can get another five years in.”

“The day that he does hang it up, we’re going to have a hard time replacing him,” Purdom added. “He’s a one-of-a-kind mailman and I’ve been around a bunch of them. I wish I could work as well and as hard, be as upbeat and be as good of an influence on people as he is.”

Boone, who has worked alongside Simpson for 13 years, said truly replacing the man that many at the post office call “Hammer” simply won’t happen.

“There hasn’t been a dull moment, believe me,” Boone said of their time together. “He’s always got a joke or a funny story to tell. I’m sure they broke the mold when they made him, because there’s nobody like him that will fill his shoes.”