FARGO - After more than 36 years with the U.S. Postal Service, Richard Vetter can still recall the early days when his job required him to sort and pigeonhole 50 envelopes a minute.
The pace was less frenetic Wednesday morning as Vetter manned a window at the Prairiewood Station in south Fargo and accepted smiles and well wishes from many of the patrons passing by.
"Good luck to you," one woman said as she left the post office lobby.
Vetter smiled back and waved, a balloon mentioning something about retirement bobbing above his head.
Vetter confirmed he is indeed retiring after today, and if Wednesday's interactions with the public were any indication he is leaving behind a large fan base.
George Wallman, who has been coming to the Prairiewood post office since moving to the neighborhood about four years ago, made a point of conducting his business at Vetter's window Wednesday morning.
He said there was something special about the way Vetter helped customers and he had some advice for the soon-to-be retiree: "I retired 10 years ago from (North Dakota State University) and I have no regrets."
Vetter said if he has any special skills working with the public it may be because he resolved many years ago that if he was going to work at a job, he was going to enjoy it.
And that, he added, has largely been the case.
Oh, there were some uncomfortable moments, like the time a lady standing in line was taken away by authorities, and the road rage incident that spilled into the post office lobby with one combatant swinging a baseball bat.
But through it all, Vetter kept his cool and continued to win admirers among his customers and co-workers.
"He's a Jedi," said Alex Anzalone, a fellow postal worker who was manning the window next to Vetter's Wednesday morning.
Anzalone also shared that during the lead-up to Christmas, Vetter pulled 12-hour shifts to help a crew that was short-handed.
"I don't know how he does it," Anzalone said. "I think there was one week where he worked both of his days off.
"You don't see that much in the workforce these days and I really admire him," Anzalone added.
Vetter said the reasons for his long and successful tenure are simple: "What helps is to know what the post office is all about, and that you can explain everything to people," he said.
"It's like, I don't know, being kind, I guess," Vetter said.