The last run: Trusted newspaper deliveryman Jonathan Weinmann wraps up nearly two decades of service 

  • Jonathan Weinman gets in the car driven by his mother, Ellen Weinman, during his paper route which he walks as well as drives to different locations. Jonathan has delivered the Daily Hampshire Gazette for 19 years and has delivered with his mother for the last 12 years. Their last day is Friday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jonathan Weinmann walks down South Street in Northampton delivering newspapers. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jonathan Weinmann drops a paper on the front steps of one of his customers on his route. He has delivered the Daily Hampshire Gazette for the last 19 years and Friday is his last day. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jonathan Weinmann on his newspaper delivery route. He has delivered the Daily Hampshire Gazette for the last 19 years and Friday is his last day. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jonathan Weinmann walks away from a customer’s home after dropping the paper at their doorstep. Weinmann has delivered the Daily Hampshire Gazette for the last 19 years and Friday is his last day. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jonathan Weinmann drops a paper on the front steps of one of his customers on his route. He has delivered the Daily Hampshire Gazette for the last 19 years and Friday is his last day. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jonathan Weinmann walks away from a customer’s home after dropping the paper at their doorstep. Weinmann has delivered the Daily Hampshire Gazette for the last 19 years and Friday is his last day. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/9/2021 8:43:46 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Jonathan Weinmann delivered his final bag of newspapers as the sun came up Friday morning. If his math is right — and it usually is — he has carried more than 800,000 copies of the Daily Hampshire Gazette to homes and businesses in Northampton since 2002.

“I’ve done a pretty good job of getting the paper delivered on time,” said Jonathan, 49, of South Street, as he reflected on his decision to retire.

When he started, Jonathan delivered about two dozen papers, and his first paycheck was for $10.86 – he remembers the exact amount nearly 20 years later. Soon, his route expanded and, when the Gazette became a morning paper in 2006, his shift changed from the afternoon to the wee hours of the morning.

He never overslept.

“It got me to do a regular job for a long, long time,” said Jonathan, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. “It makes me proud of myself that I accomplished something that, maybe, people thought I wouldn’t.”

Jonathan’s mother, Ellen Weinmann, said his autism was diagnosed at a time when “doctors thought the only way to get help would be if he stayed at the hospital 24/7.” Ellen said she couldn’t bear the thought of “giving up my child,” and the family arranged for Jonathan to go home to Westfield with a special education team in place.

The Weinmanns moved to Northampton in 1989. Ellen said Jonathan was able to open up socially and learned skills like taking the bus and eating at a restaurant. He has lived with his parents for his entire life. Despite a “photographic memory” for numbers, especially sports and music statistics, Ellen said he needs support in other areas, like tying his shoes.

Jonathan’s parents wanted to put him on track to live in a group home, but both of the state agencies to which they applied, the Department of Mental Retardation (now called the Department of Developmental Services) and the Department of Mental Health, said Jonathan did not meet their requirements.

The social services agency Community Enterprises found Jonathan a kitchen job at Amherst College; the environment was too noisy and confusing, so he left. A second job keeping inventory for a vending machine company was so simple for Jonathan that he quickly ran out of work to do every day and became bored.

In February of 2002, when Jonathan was 29 years old, he walked to the Conz Street office of the Daily Hampshire Gazette by himself and asked for a job application. He delivered his first newspaper on Fort Hill Terrace on April 1, 2002.

For seven years, the papers were dropped off at the Weinmanns’ house each day and Jonathan would work alone, bundling and bagging and placing each paper in the exact spot where the customer wanted it. In 2009, the Gazette’s delivery vendor started requiring carriers to use a vehicle; since Jonathan cannot drive, his mother quit her job as a Weight Watchers group leader and started driving him on his route six days a week.

Ellen was a delivery contractor, and Jonathan was her sub-contractor, but Ellen said those are just technicalities. In reality, it was Jonathan’s route all the way.

Until Friday, the pair delivered up to 220 newspapers a day, and even though Ellen was the driver and helped Jonathan manage some business logistics, Jonathan still hand delivered every paper by himself. He worked in all weather conditions, from about 3:30 a.m. to 6 a.m., every day of the year except for Sundays and Christmas.

During the 12 years that the mother-son team worked together, they took only two days off, said Ellen, and it was only because she injured herself in a fall at home. She recuperated over a weekend and went back to work as soon as possible. Jonathan, meanwhile, said that falling down on the route was a common problem every winter, but “I just powered through.”

Ellen is turning 73 next week, and her husband will be 80 in August. The family is ready to retire from delivering papers, but Jonathan is interested in finding another job. He thinks a record store would be a good fit because of his encyclopedic knowledge of music.

Jonathan knows the Billboard chart positions of popular songs and albums dating back four decades, thanks to his loyal reading of Billboard magazine every week since he was 12. He was a diehard listener of radio legend Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” program.

On their weekly Music Wednesdays, Jonathan and his mother would listen to compilations of his favorite songs from a particular artist or genre as they sat in the car together.

“The best gift that I got from doing this (job),” said Ellen, “is to truly reconnect with Jonathan at this stage in his life. Now I understand more of who he is.”

Ellen praised her son’s commitment to doing excellent work. She credited the “tremendous” improvement in his condition to the continuity of his job and to the love of his family.

Stephanie Nurenberg, a customer on South Street, said Jonathan is more careful with the newspapers than some other carriers, keeping them dry and intact and putting them in exactly the right spot. She said he “carries himself as a professional,” but more than that, he is a “courteous, thoughtful man.”

“He sees himself, and other people see him, as handicapped, but that is a relative term,” said Nurenberg.

From January through December 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Jonathan would return to Nurenberg’s house three days a week around noontime. He helped Nurenberg’s elderly husband get up the wheelchair ramp and back into their home after his dialysis appointments, wearing gloves and a mask. He never accepted a penny for the effort.

“He’s honest, he’s dependable, he’s hardworking and he’s a nice person,” Nurenberg said.

Mayor David Narkewicz, also a customer, said his family is grateful for Jonathan’s “19 years of tireless commitment to making sure our neighborhood received its paper each day without fail and regardless of the weather.”

“Working as a well-oiled team with his mother, Ellen, driving him from street to street, you could literally set your watch by Jonathan’s early morning deliveries,” Narkewicz said. “Like so many other people who have been the beneficiaries of Jonathan’s incredible dedication to his work and his customers, we extend to him and his mother our sincere thanks and love as he hangs up his paper bag for a well-earned retirement.”

The Weinmanns’ next door neighbor, Pat Byrne, said the neighborhood supports Jonathan and stands in awe of Ellen, who has done everything possible to give her son a good life.

“It was pedal to the metal, using every skill that she had to make him who he is today,” Byrne said.

Byrne, 73, has hired Jonathan to bring out her trash cans on Tuesday nights, and there are plenty of other jobs Jonathan could do around the neighborhood. She said he can do anything, as long as he has clear instructions.

“Everyone is kind of holding their breath” to see what happens next for the Weinmanns, but also for the customers, Byrne said. Whenever the Weinmanns received a tip, they would leave a personalized paper snowflake as a thank-you. Byrne said it’s those special details that will be hard to replace.

“I’m concerned about what’s going to happen to the Gazette, honestly. They’ve got us all so spoiled,” she said.

“They respected me as a newspaper deliverer,” said Jonathan of his customers. “I think they’ll miss our service.”

As for Jonathan, he said he will miss everything about the job he held for nearly 20 years. Everything, that is, “except for the getting up part.”

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.

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