Friday, February 28, 2014

TOP STORY >> Happiest mailman in Jacksonville

Leader staff writer

“Hallelujah” follows almost every sentence spoken by the man who for 17 years has delivered mail and spread joy to the Sunnyside Addition in Jacksonville and this paper.

Ronald (Ron) Snider, 72, retired on Friday after a 27-year career with the Postal Service. He said the job was a blessing and an opportunity to serve others.

Snyder was born in 1941 in Alliance, Ohio, and is an Air Force veteran.

Snider has been an air-traffic controller, a newspaper carrier, a janitor and organized fishing tournaments — in that order — before friends who worked for the post office encouraged him to take the test that would start his career there.

Snider’s test score was low, but veterans received a 10-point preference. The 10 points that were added were enough to get him the job.

“I consider it a blessing from God because I really needed to get financially stable,” Snider said. “The post office has been really good to me.”

He began his post office career as a mail handler. For 10 years, Snider unloaded trucks at the facility on McCain Boulevard in North Little Rock.

“It was just pure labor,” he said. “What happened after that, it was a midnight tour. I never slept a whole night hardly. I woke up in the ICU over there at Rebsamen (now North Metro Medical Center). And the doctor said, ‘You need to get a day job.’”

At first, the hospital thought he had a heart attack. But he was diagnosed with a hernia, an ulcer and high blood pressure.

“It was one of those changing moments in your life,” Snider said.

So he asked the postmaster at the time — she was one of Snider’s neighbors — about a letter-carrier position. He was hired.

“Within two weeks, my health came back,” Snider said.

“What I like is the aspect that you’re dealing with people. I love people and their lives. Even though we don’t have a lot of time, you learn so much about people. You know their dogs’ names, some of the cats, kid’s birthdays. You can tell a lot from the mail,” he continued.

Residents have given Snider candy, baked goods, chili, tomatoes and other gifts. Snider said he has even been invited in to lunch at houses he delivers mail to.

“People treat you really nice,” he said.

Another fact he can tell from mail, without opening it of course, is when a family may be struggling financially. Their bills pile up, Snider explained.

“We all have challenges and we need each other. If you’re able to help somebody, the Lord has really leaned on me about helping people,” he said.

Snider said letter carriers can direct people who need help to food banks or other resources.

He puts residents’ names in the prayer box at his church and has even given money to people who were struggling.

That attitude bloomed when Snider was young and people helped him.

When he was 20, Snider’s grandmother fell seriously ill. The Red Cross gave him $85 for a round-trip train ticket and he didn’t have any money at the time.

The train’s passengers were called to the dining car and Snider went there, knowing he couldn’t afford to eat.

A man he remembers only as Mr. White asked if he was going to eat.

Snider said, “I was like, ‘No, I think I’ll pass.’ And he said, ‘You don’t have any money, do you?’ And I said, ‘No, sir.’ And he said, ‘Let me buy you a meal.’ And I said, ‘How can I repay you?’ And he said, ‘Buy somebody a meal someday.”’

Snider said, “Since then, I can’t tell you how many meals I’ve bought people because I’ve been blessed. He was one of, you know in life you go through and meet real angels. I call them angels. God puts people in your path sometimes when you need help.”

Just two weeks before his retirement, the mailman noticed that the mail was building up at one house. Snider said he was concerned for the woman who lived there and unfortunately, she was found dead inside her home.

“You get a concern for people. I’ve got a lot of elderly people on my route and we kind of take our time to check on them, knock on their door if they don’t get their mail out of the box…Treat people the way you want to be treated,” Snider said.

He started each shift at 8 a.m. by sorting different types of packages. Letters are sorted by machine.

Six to six and a half hours of every eight-hour shift were spent delivering the mail, Snider said.

It’s a demanding job with a risk of error and injury, he noted.

Snider said static electricity sometimes causes pieces of mail to stick together.

That is how important things like food stamps, Social Security or other checks wind up at the wrong address.

One of the mistakes Snider remembered making was dropping a colonel’s paycheck in the snow when he was delivering mail on Little Rock Air Force Base.

And, in icy weather, he slid on the road and struck a mailbox.

Mailmen are also the sworn enemy of some dogs. Snider has been bitten five times.

The post office gives the carriers pepper spray to use in case of an attack, but Snider said he carries dog biscuits instead.

“The next day he wants to be your friend,” the mailman said with a chuckle.

One time, a cat stole Snider’s sandwich from his truck while he was making a delivery. Then there was another time a snake chased him on the base, which is a walking route, Snider said.

Also while he was doing that route, a hornet got into shirt once and stung Snider 13 times.

He said, “The was traumatic because I was scared.” Snider was scared because he was rushed to the emergency room as a young boy after having an allergic reaction to a hornet sting.

But, fortunately, he didn’t have an allergic reaction to the later incident.

Being a mailman also carries the threat of running into little things, like hanging flowerpots, Snider added.

Carriers need patience, love, a basic knowledge of numbers and the ability to pay attention, he continued.

Snider believes the post office is important because it keeps a lot of people employed, giving them self-worth. And that in turn helps communities and their tax base because people spend the money they make, Snider said.

He continued, “The big people up in Washington, they want to cut. They want to get rid of 110,000 letter carriers. And it’s really sad when you think about that because young people, there’s no jobs unless you work in fast food. We’re becoming a nation of fast-food, minimum-wage workers. I’m pro-mail because it’s good for the economy and people love their mail.”

Before becoming a letter carrier, Snider spent most of his time in the Air Force. He retired from the military after 21 years.

Snider enlisted at age 19 as an air-traffic controller and clerk. “I had a big, long name. They call it communication electronics programmer…what I did, I ordered new control towers and stuff,” he said.

Snider noted that he “burned out” on that job after serving in Vietnam. In addition to Vietnam, he was deployed to Libya, Japan and Korea.

He couldn’t afford to not work after leaving the Air Force. His wife at that time, Linda, was pregnant.

Snider was 42 when his son, Brandon Paul Snider, was born.

So he took a job delivering the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to the Sunnyside Addition and Toneyville in Jacksonville. Snider did that for 10 months.

Then he was hired as a janitor. Ten months later, Snider left that position to organize fishing tournaments and do public relations for them.

After two years of doing fishing tournaments, he said he still wasn’t doing well financially. That is when he started his career with the post office.

Snider’s current wife, Mary, has two children, Dante and Jasia Roy.

Now that Snider’s stint with the post office is over, he said God has called him to do jail and prison ministry.

Snider attends New Zion Temple, a nondenominational church where he became a deacon. The pastor then pushed him to earn a minister’s license.

Snider added that he accepted Jesus when he was 55.

He is also retiring because he wants to go fishing more often.