Job: Letter carrierAge: 70Distinction: 50 years with the Post OfficeCareer: He grew up in Macon, Ga., joined the Air Force out of high School and began work with the Post Office in downtown Chattanooga in 1962. He lives in Cleveland, Tenn.Quote: "My advice to others is to work hard and go to college. I didn't get much college, but I've always tried to do my job."
Neither rain, sleet, snow or old age keeps Rufus Faircloth from delivering the mail every day.
The Postal Service recognized the 70-year-old letter carrier Wednesday for 50 years of employment. With the Post Office cutting jobs and many carriers taking early retirement, Faircloth says he still looks forward to delivering letters, cards and packages every day along his East Brainerd route.
"I could have retired 15 years ago, but I still enjoy coming to work," he said.
After cutting his anniversary cake and hearing compliments from his boss and fellow postal workers Wednesday morning, Faircloth loaded up his mail bag and drove his postal truck to Hurricane Creek.
Mail delivery is far more automated and efficient today than when Faircloth joined the Post Office in 1962 after his service in the Air Force.
"I wanted to keep working for the government so the Post Office seemed like a great place to go to work," he said.
Such jobs are becoming rarer in the Chattanooga district, which is operating with about 300 employees, or at least a third fewer employees than in the 1970s, Chattanooga Postmaster Peter Dechelle said.
"We're still a growing community, but unfortunately our mail volume has declined and we've had to make some cuts," Dechelle said.
But the postmaster said he's glad to have dependable, friendly carriers like Faircloth still on the job.
"The amazing thing is that he (Faircloth) still goes out and delivers the mail to the same community and the same people year after year," Dechelle said. "He always has a smile on his face and is such a good ambassador for the Post Office."
Faircloth has the most seniority of any Chattanooga postal worker, although Post Office employees is some other U.S. cities are still on the job into their 90s, Dechelle said.
When Faircloth began with the Post Office, first class stamps were only 4 cents, there were no zip codes yet and he walked his downtown route. Zip codes were introduced in 1963 and soon after Faircloth began delivering mail in a surplus Army truck. He stood while driving the mail truck with only a strap to secure him in the vehicle.
"When we went around a curve, it felt like the truck was going to tip, or you were going to fall out," he recalled. "The trucks are a lot better today."
Faircloth shows no signs of slowing down and says any talk about retirement is still a year or more in the future.
"My customers are like family," he said. "I've enjoyed watching so many children grow up and start families of their own."