Editorial: Monday mix on retiring letter carrier; ‘unsung heroine’ and ‘missing’ congressman

  • Longtime letter carrier Rich Micelotta, who worked the same downtown Amherst route since 1990, has retired.  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Sunday, June 18, 2017

His title was letter carrier, but that doesn’t do justice to the way that Rich Micelotta delivered the mail with gusto in downtown Amherst for nearly 27 years.

He was quick with the quips as he made his rounds to some 600 customers in shops and homes north of the intersection where South and North Pleasant streets meet. “No one else wanted it,” Micelotta says of his route. “It’s a little bit long, but for me, this was perfect.” It ended earlier this year when a bad back forced him to retire at age 61.

Jay Carreiro, the general manager at Antonio’s Pizza on North Pleasant Street, says the place came alive when Micelotta made his daily delivery. “It was explosive when he came in,” Carreiro says.

Perhaps that’s why Antonio’s occasionally includes Rich’s Special on the menu — a slice topped with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, portabella mushrooms and pesto.

That’s not the only downtown Amherst menu item that pays homage to the mailman. Henion Bakery, also on North Pleasant Street, on Thursdays offers Richie’s Roll, an onion poppyseed pastry that’s a nod to Micelotta’s native Queens, New York. “He was like the unofficial mayor of this part of downtown,” says bakery owner David Henion.

Micelotta says he enjoys being part of a town with a diverse population that reminds him of New York. “So many different people from so many places.”

He started a 40-year federal government career by working for the Social Security Administration, before shifting to the Postal Service in Valley Stream, Long Island, from 1981 to 1986. He then moved to Amherst where he handled temporary routes until he got the downtown gig in June 1990. “I’ve been in heaven ever since,” Micelotta says.

The back problem interferes with golf, one of his passions, but does not keep him from his guitar, which he sometimes played on his off days to entertain residents at the apartments where he delivered the mail.

No doubt many people whose lives he touched will sing his praises during a gathering in his honor from 4 to 7 p.m. June 29 at Bertucci’s, 51 East Pleasant St.

* * *

It’s no surprise that when state Rep. Peter Kocot of Northampton told City Councilor Marianne LaBarge that he had a surprise for her, she hoped it meant a state grant to make safety improvements at the intersection of Florence and Ryan roads.

Instead it was word that she is one of 114 women honored this year as “Unsung Heroines” by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. She will receive the award during a ceremony June 21 at the Statehouse in Boston.

In nominating LaBarge, Kocot described how her “attention to detail, tenacity and good heart” make her an effective public servant — whether it is seeking money for road improvements or arranging temporary shelter for a family whose house was damaged by a falling tree during a storm.

LaBarge expressed shock at the recognition: “I don’t know what I did to deserve this.” Simply put, she has been a model city councilor for her Ward 6 constituents for 20 years, and, we hope, many more.

* * *

Some residents of the Hampshire County Hilltowns are not happy with Congressman Richard Neal of Springfield, and they made that clear in a “missing” person advertisement published in the June 10-11 Weekend Gazette. “Has anyone seen this man?” reads the headline below a photo of a grinning Neal.

The words were stronger when organizers of the effort to get Neal to talk issues in the Hilltowns expressed their frustration with his absence. Dan Lederer, a spokesman for Indivisible Williamsburg, which paid for the ad, says of the congressman, “In Springfield, people love him because he shows up there. For him, we’re just flies on his lunch. We’re annoying but really of no consequence.”

There has been grumbling by some residents and officials in the Hilltowns for the past year about how infrequently they see Neal, especially in comparison with his 1st Congressional District predecessors John Olver of Amherst and the late Silvio Conte.

We understand that Neal represents 87 communities in the state’s most geographically vast congressional district, and that the majority of its voters live in his home territory of Hampden County. Still, to truly understand all his constituents’ concerns, Neal would be wise to take a few road trips each year to the Hilltowns of Hampshire and Franklin counties. The scenery is breathtaking, and the need to be heard just as strong.