Mail carrier retires after 41 yearsPublished 5:43pm Sunday, December 23, 2012
Gray Preston retires from the Dowagiac post office Dec. 29 after 41 years as a rural carrier.
He serves 620 customers on route four, bounded by Middle Crossing Road, Indian Lake Road to Crystal Springs and M-51.
“I’ll do odd jobs” in retirement. “I’ve mowed lawns for years. My wife owns Curves, and I’ll be helping her,” he said.
That would be Linda (Ausra) Preston, not to be confused with his sister-in-law Linda Preston, Pokagon Township supervisor, married to his brother, Pete, who is seven years younger.
Gray grew up in a family with eight children — five boys and three girls, including two sets of twins.
The Prestons live on Peavine Street with their four children, Jesse, studying psychology at Southwestern Michigan College; Easton, a Union High School senior; Thomas, a DUHS junior — they’re in band, National Honor Society and SMC classes together; and Billy, who is in seventh grade.
Changes along the way
“They didn’t have five-digit numbers when I started,” Preston said. “Just route four, with a box number. That was quite a change because I’m a little dyslexic and numbers and I don’t get along.”
“You’re on your own, in a way, once you get out of here,” he said. “I like the customers. That’s what I’ll miss the most. A few come out to talk to you. How I got into it is I went to National Guard basic training. When I came back, a sub who did odd jobs with my dad wanted to retire. I was just helping my dad on the farm, so I gave it a try and just kind of fell into it. I’m definitely surprised I’ve been doing it this long. When I first started casing mail, it took me three times longer than everybody else. I gave it until Friday, and, by Thursday, it started falling into place. I could almost do it blindfolded now.”
Preston graduated from Eau Claire High School in 1969.
“My two older brothers were in the service for the Vietnam War, and my dad needed help on the farm, so I joined the National Guard to keep from being drafted,” Preston said.
“I did some landscaping, built fences and helped my uncle with electrical work, that kind of stuff. It’s very unusual (to keep the same job an entire career). I’ve got a niece who worked 10 different jobs in one year right out of high school. I’m kind of a workaholic, always doing something, so I’m sure I won’t be bored.”
In his spare time, he enjoys woodworking and bicycling.
Preston attended Mayflower school on Indian Lake Road in Pokagon Township through eighth grade.
Preston had a beard when he married Linda in 1992, stirring speculation that his bride made him shave it. Actually, it was shaved so he could join the Indian Lake Fire Department, of which he is now president.
Due to the Christmas crush, his day started at 6:30 a.m.
“It takes me about four hours on the route and two in here,” he said. “Normal days, when I start at 7:30, I’m done by 4 o’clock.”
His name is often mistaken. He either becomes “Preston Gray” or people think it’s a typo for “Gary.” Gray came from his dad’s best friend.
“They bummed around California 18 months to travel a little bit,” he said.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Gray for a few of his 41 years,” Postmaster Leah Sovine said at his retirement party. “It won’t be the same here without him. We’ll all miss him. In 1971, the post office was half the size.”
At that time, stamps cost 6 cents; and Dan Brosnan was postmaster.