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Last post: Amherst mailman who inspired pastry, pizza flavors to retire

  • Long-time mail carrier Rich Micelotta, who has worked the same downtown Amherst route since 1990, has retired. Here, he is shown June 9, 2017 on the route. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Long-time mail carrier Rich Micelotta, who has worked the same downtown Amherst route since 1990, has retired. Here, he is shown June 9, 2017 on the route. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Longtime Amherst mail carrier Rich Micelotta is shown on his route last week. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Longtime mail carrier Rich Micelotta, who has worked the same downtown Amherst route since 1990, has retired. Here, he is shown last week on the route. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Long-time mail carrier Rich Micelotta, who has worked the same downtown Amherst route since 1990, has retired. Here, he is shown June 9, 2017 on the route. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Long-time mail carrier Rich Micelotta, who has worked the same downtown Amherst route since 1990, has retired. Here, he is shown June 9, 2017 on the route. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A photo of Rich Micelotta that once was tacked to a bulletin board at Henion Bakery. —Submitted Photo

  • Display sign for Richie’s Rolls, a Thursday-only pastry at Henion Bakery. —Submitted Photo

  • Rich Micelotta, far left, and other mail carriers help Sylvia Fuchs celebrate her 100th birthday in 2014. —Submitted Photo



Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

AMHERST — On Thursdays at Henion Bakery, customers can order Richie’s Roll, an onion poppyseed pastry that pays tribute to mail carrier Rich Micelotta’s heritage as a native of Queens, New York.

“He was like the unofficial mayor of this part of downtown,” says David Henion, the bakery owner who created the tender, rich bread in honor of the popular mailman.

Just down the street, those grabbing a lunch or dinner at Antonio’s Pizza can occasionally find on the menu Rich’s Special, a slice topped with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, portabella mushrooms and pesto.

General Manager Jay Carreiro says the item dates back to the early 1990s and remains in the book of special menu items because of how well liked and respected Micelotta is in town.

“Everyone knew him, everyone would talk to him,” said Carreiro, adding that some cooks at the restaurants would annually give Micelotta Christmas gifts.

For more than a quarter century, Micelotta handled one of the downtown Amherst routes, delivering mail to about 600 customers, including shopkeepers and residents, spending more than 8 hours a day, mostly on foot, to get the job done.

“To me, customers are what makes letter carriers work,” Micelotta said.

Micelotta quips that he loves the menu items, which are part of his being a “shameless self promoter.”

But a back problem is forcing him into premature retirement and keeping him from the golf links that, along with playing guitar, are his primary hobbies.

“I’m hanging up the spatula,” Micelotta, 61, said, observing that he will no longer be punching the clock for work. “I’ve made the last punch bunch.”

Perfect route

Before embarking on a career in the postal service, Micelotta started his 40-year stint as a federal civil servant with the Social Security Agency. Then he landed with the post office in Valley Stream, Long Island from 1981 to 1986.

He came to Amherst in 1986 with his first wife and did temporary routes, including one to Puffton Village apartments in North Amherst, before being assigned the downtown route in 1990. This route, north of the main intersection and one assigned to “city carriers,” gave him the opportunity to meet many people.

“No one else wanted it,” Micelotta said. “It’s a little bit long, but for me, this was perfect.”

Since June 1990, with some changes, Micelotta began his days at 7 North Pleasant St. and continued to all stores and restaurants, Ann Whalen Apartments and Chestnut Court and homes near Kendrick Park. “I’ve been in heaven ever since,” Micelotta said.

What he appreciates most is that he has become part of the fabric of a town that has a diverse population reminiscent of New York.

“So many different people from so many different places,” Micelotta said.

Eliana Dabbous, who runs Malek Shawarma Mediterranean Cafe and Eliana’s Barbershop, doesn’t hesitate in praising his work.

“He’s the best mailman ever,” Dabbous said. “He’s really good at his job and he’s just a funny guy.”

Carreiro said Micelotta would liven up Antonio’s when he delivered mail. “It was explosive when he came in,” Carreiro said.

Special arrangements

Not only was Micelotta entertaining for staff and customers, he would bring personal attention to the letters and packages he dropped off.

One of his favorite customers was Sylvia Fuchs, Henion’s mother-in-law, who earned the Boston Post Gold Cane as Amherst’s oldest resident last year.

Before moving to the Center for Extended Care, Fuchs, who was blind, lived in an apartment on his route and gave candy to mail carriers in winter and ice pops in summer. Micelotta made special arrangements so she would know her mail was being delivered.

“A real sweetheart,” is how Micelotta describes her. “I used to call her my Jewish grandmother.”

Micelotta doesn’t have any stories about being chased by dogs, but said he never had a bad day at work.

“I can’t think of any negative experiences,” Micelotta said. “People are nice, they’re friendly and they want to help you.”

One of the most challenging days was when Hurricane Andrew came through in 1992, with sheets of rain coming down knocking a large branch from a tree right in front of him.

“The limb was still in the ground quivering,” Micelotta said.

As a Bayside, New York native, Sept. 11, 2001, was the most surreal day, as he recalls hearing the church bells at St. Brigid’s Catholic Church ringing throughout the day.

“I really felt like I was in a bit of a fog,” Micelotta said.

Growing up in the city in the 1960s, he saw some of the counterculture develop. He came to western Massachusetts with his ex-wife, noting that it has some of the same vibe, and is still reasonably close to both New York’s and Boston’s music scenes.

Using both MySpace and YouTube, Micelotta has uploaded recordings of his own compositions, some licensed with the Library of Congress, as Rockin’ Richie and the Zipcode.

Since one of hobbies is guitar, on his days off he sometimes would play at apartments he delivered to for the entertainment of residents.

Micelotta said jokes are a good way to keep each day light, and he loved exchanging jokes with people on the route. While these were wide-ranging, he tried to keep them intellectual.

In an earlier interview on a bitterly cold winter day, Micelotta explained the reasons why he preferred bitter cold days to warm, humid days of summer.

“Because there’s only so much you can take off, you know?”

He even has humor about his hobbies.

“My golf and my guitar have two things in common,” Micelotta said. “They are probably not going on tour, but I hope to do them until I’m done around here.”

Serving generations

The nature of the mailman’s job is changing, as is the oversight of mail carriers. The autonomy he once had is disappearing.

“To stop and chat a little bit is more complicated,” Micelotta said.

Micelotta has been a union steward and officer for the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 46 in Amherst.

He has been on his route so long that when a student approached him in 2015 and asked if he had been delivering mail in the early 1990s on the west side of Kendrick Park, he confirmed that he had. The student said this meant he likely delivered to his mother when she was an undergraduate living there.

Micelotta said that although it may be time to kick back and have some fun, his job was rarely difficult.

“My job was anything but work,” Micelotta said. “It’s really been a wonderful time.”

Those who want to wish Micelotta well in retirement are encouraged to drop by Bertucci’s, 51 East Pleasant St., June 29 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.