By ADAM ASHTON
Howard Dunlap's job has been to deliver mail but he's always been known for also bringing candy for the kids, hellos to everyone and, when necessary, an extra hand for people fixing their cars.
He's one of a kind, say his coworkers and many of the folks living along his route.
After 32 years of trekking that same path daily in Sonora's Belleview Oaks area, Dunlap retired from the Sonora Post Office Wednesday.
Dunlap, 58, said he'll miss the familiar faces he's seen along his route virtually every day for the last three decades.
"I loved it. Once I get out on the street with my people out there that's the good part," he said.
Once they learned their favorite mailman was leaving, Belleview Oaks residents planned a day of surprises for Dunlap as he made his final deliveries.
Marilyn Hope, to whom Dunlap has delivered mail for three decades, said Wednesday morning that Dunlap would find flags raised at many mailboxes along his route. Inside the boxes, would be well-wishing cards left for him.
"He's just been a real steady person in our lives," Hope said. "He's going to be mad at all of us. He's going to have to stop at all our mail boxes and he's not going to get out of here early."
Earl Harshman of Belleview Oaks agreed that Dunlap will be sorely missed.
"He always has a smile on his face," said Harshman, a 10-year stop on Dunlap's route. "You can almost set your watch by him."
Hope said she'll miss the familiar sound of Dunlap's Volkswagen Beetle rolling over the hill to her neighborhood.
Once, Hope said she and her husband were struggling to get a back seat out of their own Volkswagen when Dunlap pulled up and volunteered to help them.
"That's just the way he is," she said.
Dunlap is also a Volkswagen expert. He ran through four of them and replaced countless engines during his mail-carrying career.