Postal worker says goodbye after 46 years (Video)
He stood at his counter at the James Moody Post Office, waiting for the next in line to walk up with their packages.
A plastic "Happy Retirement" sign was pinned to the gray wall behind him, and balloons were tethered on both sides of the counter.
John Cano III, 66, handed Karen Hoffer a receipt and smiled.
"Have a nice day, Karen," he said.
"You have a nice retirement, John. I'm going to miss you," Hoffer said, beaming a smile back to him.
For years, people have come through the glass doors, toting Christmas presents, Valentine's Day cards, birthday cards, letters and packages of all shapes and sizes for Cano and other postal employees to take charge of. After 46 years at the post office, he knows most of his customers. He never forgets a name.
"You walk in and he'll call you by name. It makes you feel special," said customer Maureen Sharp.
"It makes you feel like you're important. You're being treated as a person, not just a number in the system," Hoffer said.
At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Cano's time with the postal service came to an end, one of many across the country who took voluntary retirement as the U.S. Postal Service continues to lose money.
People aren't sending as many letters, but Cano has never doubted the importance of the post office. Even as he is leaving for retirement, he knows the U.S. Postal Service will find a way to survive and keep people connected. In his own way, that's what he has worked at while standing behind his counter all these years.
"I love this," he said. "I've been here rain or shine, through floods and hurricanes. I just love working."
Cano started his U.S. Postal Service career Dec. 19, 1966, when he was 20 years old. Born and raised in Victoria, he was looking for a path in life when he came across an advertisement to take the Civil Service Exam in the newspaper. He studied, took the test and was working as a mail handler six months later.
He started at the downtown post office, bouncing around for a few years until the James Moody Post Office opened in 1987. From then on, he woke at 6 a.m. every morning, put on his blue and white striped shirt and navy slacks and, kissing his wife Lois Cano goodbye, he'd be off to work, opening the doors at 8 a.m. and working until 5:30 p.m., talking to customers and getting their mail sorted.
Lois Cano met her husband a few years after he started working at the post office, a man with black hair, coffee-colored eyes and a smile so wide and genuine she had to smile back. He wore the same smile when he was at the post office, and when he asked people's names, asked about their children and parents, how their lives were going, people would tell him the truth because they could tell from his smile he really cared. His thick hair turned gray as the years passed and laugh lines began to frame his eyes, but the smile stayed the same.
"Each face is different, and when a person is happy, it shows differently on them, and I love to see that. I try to make people happy," he said.
His last day at the post office was filled with hugs and clasped hands, people thanking him for years of service.
He and his wife are planning to spend time with their children and grandchildren. They're going on a cruise to Cozumel and he's hoping to see California for the first time.
He stood outside the glass doors of the post office, watching and saying hello one last time as customers came and went.
"I'll probably come by and buy stamps, say hello to people, but it'll be different," he said, wiping at tears in his eyes. "I'll miss it."