For 17 years, Gregory Duplessis delivered mail in the northwest corner of Puyallup. Every day, he made 674 deliveries.
In that time, the 63-year-old mailman came to see the hundreds of people who live there as more than just customers.
“I’ve been on this route for 17 years, and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it,” said Duplessis, who is from New Orleans. “They are my family. I go by their house. I go there for dinner, Christmastime — they treat me like I’m family. I look forward to seeing them every day.”
The people on his route feel the same way.
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That’s why, when Duplessis announced his retirement in the spring, neighbors hung thank-you banners for Duplessis on their doors and garages. Puyallup resident Tinell Skaug began putting together plans for a retirement block party, passing out fliers to her neighbors. She’s lived on Duplessis’s route for 15 years.
“He is so loving and so kind,” Skaug said. “Hard worker, but takes the time to stop and ask you how your day is.”
On Sunday, more than 100 neighbors gathered on 19th Street NW between 4th Avenue and 5th Avenue in Puyallup to celebrate Duplessis’ retirement, bringing platters of food and dessert. When Dupplessis arrived, the crowd cheered and applauded him.
“I felt tremendous,” said Duplessis, who officially retired in May. “I can look here and see how these people feel for me, and, believe me, I love every last one of them.”
Neighbors at the celebration said he went the extra mile for them, whether it was bringing dog treats for their pets or taking the time to hand deliver packages.
“He’s the kind of person that, even though he has a schedule and keeps his schedule, he knows your name and calls you by name. He gives you a hug. He asks about your family,” said Jonelle Stansbury, who’s lived in her house on Duplessis’s route for 17 years. “He doesn’t just do what he needs to do, he does what family does, and I think that’s why there’s so many people here.”
Jan Baginski has lived in Puyallup for 33 years and often gets packages from her native Poland. She remembers Duplessis taking extra care of those packages — even returning to her home after finishing his route to hand deliver them.
“That’s the kind of person he is,” she said.
“I can recall once my door was left open while we were gone, and he took the initiative to go find another neighbor who knew my phone number to double check to make sure that I was okay, then shut the door for me,” Skaug said. “(He’s) just that watchful eye in the neighborhood who’s always there with a hug.”
Duplessis also helped residents feel less alone.
“My favorite thing about Gregory is that in this area, there are a lot of stay-at-home moms that are new to motherhood that kind of find themselves a little bit isolated, if they just recently left work,” Skaug said. “Gregory was always — for me — my constant adult interaction during the day. He was always there with a smile and a hug and asked me how I was.”
“I’d say the same for the older residents in our neighborhood that either don’t drive or just have a reduced social circle,” Skaug continued. “He’s definitely a part of that and provides them still with a sense of importance to the community.”
Duplessis’ sisters and other family members flew in from New Orleans just for the celebration, but everyone that surrounded him that night felt like family.
Making the decision to retire was a tough one, Duplessis said.
“I was kind of conflicted with it because I know I was going to be missing (them),” he said. “And right now I’m still conflicted with it because I’m missing them. I really am.
“I’d just like to say that I love them all, and they know I’m going to be coming around to see them. We’re still going to see each other. Me being retired is not breaking it off, I’m just moving on to something different, but the love and the friendship is still there.”