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Kerry Pratt Retires After 35 Years Delivering Mail
By Leslie O’Donnell 6-30-17

For more than 35 years, Kerry Pratt of Raymond has been delivering letters and packages to the residents of Fremont.

That’s about to change, with Pratt marking his last day of work with the U.S. Postal Service on Friday, June 30. It’s a bittersweet occasion for Pratt, but he said it’s time for him to move on.

Pratt has seen a lot of changes with the Postal Service since he began as a substitute carrier in Fremont in 1981. The Postal Service has moved from letters and bills and magazines to a package delivery industry, and has shifted its focus to saving money. But for Pratt, it’s his customers who have always meant the most to him.

His career began when Fremont mail carrier Bernice Turner, his mother’s second cousin, told her she needed a substitute on her route. Pratt got the job.

He continued as a substitute for four years, making do with other part-time jobs as well, including working as a janitor at the Ellis School in Fremont, before being hired as a full-time mail carrier in Stratham in 1985. One year into that position, a full-time carrier job opened in Fremont, and Pratt was the only one to apply.

The rest, as they say, is history.

When Pratt began with the Fremont Post Office, his route covered all of Fremont as well as north Danville and portions of Brentwood and West Epping. It covered more than 60 miles and 600 mailboxes.  His full-time route in 1986 included all those towns, but since then, things have changed, and the route he is leaving, with 520 mailboxes, is one of three mail delivery routes in Fremont these days.

 

Kerry Pratt

 

Knowing he wanted to make mail delivery his career, Pratt ordered a 1985 right-hand-drive Jeep Cherokee from a Stratham dealer, at a time when mail carriers had to supply their own vehicles. He worked out of that vehicle until he was given an LLV – long life vehicle – that the Postal Service uses now. He noted that some area mail carriers – in Sandown, for example – still use their own vehicles.

Pratt said that about 15 years ago, the Postal Service saw the need to go after package delivery, something that had virtually  been given up. “They’ve been very successful,” he said. “Our problem now is keeping up with the volume of packages.”

And these days, substitute carriers take part in Amazon Sundays, delivering Amazon packages directly to homes in town on Sundays.

“The packages go directly to the door, even if they would fit in the mailbox,” Pratt said of Amazon Sundays. “This has helped keep the Post Office from going out of business. They once talked about having to cancel Saturday mail delivery, but now the Post Office works seven days a week – all over the country, it’s hard to find enough people to do the work.”

About 10 years ago, after population growth in Fremont led to the need for three mail routes, Pratt and his fellow Fremont carriers began working out of the Raymond Post Office. “We sort the mail and packages in Raymond and then drive to Fremont,” he said. “Pretty much, letters and magazines have gone by the wayside, and now the focus is packages. We can deliver up to 200 packages a day.”

Pratt’s daughter, Tammy Pratt, and one of his co-workers, Tasca Allain, held a surprise party for Pratt on June 24. That was a special time for him.

“Overall, it’s been a good job and I loved doing it,” Pratt said. “The hard part is leaving my customers – some of them I’ve had the whole time I’ve worked there. But it was time to give another substitute carrier a chance to go full time.”

A third-generation Raymond native and a 1977 graduate of Raymond High School, Pratt doesn’t expect to have difficulty figuring out what to do in retirement. A call firefighter with the Raymond Fire Department – he had 40 years in with the fire service in February – he expects to spend more time with the RFD. He fondly recalls taking the opportunity to fight a wildland fire in Missoula, Mont., in his early years of firefighting.

And he is eager to devote more time to his hobby – playing bagpipes. He played with the Stuart Highlanders Pipe Band from Massachusetts and traveled to Switzerland with them for the Basel Tattoo, where they performed in a sold out 8,500-seat outdoor arena, and with the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

“I want to get back into that,” he said. “I enjoy playing, and I prefer performing to competing. I like the parades.”

He started playing bagpipes in 2000, after having attended a memorial service at the Worcester, Mass., Centrum following the deaths of six Worcester firefighters in an abandoned warehouse blaze. A bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” by the Worcester Kiltie Pipe Band at that service convinced him to learn to play the pipes.

“I said that when I get back to Raymond, I’m going to find someone to teach me to play the bagpipes,” he recalled. He began taking lessons with his daughter, Tammy, who was 14 at the time, at the New Hampshire School of Scottish Arts in Manchester. Tammy, who now lives in Goffstown and is a pastry chef at the Black Forest Café in Amherst, has also keep up her playing, and is a member of the Stuart Highlanders as well.

Pratt’s late wife, Donna, who died in 2004, was a one-on-one special needs teacher at Lamprey River Elementary School. “She used to love to watch us play at the Highland Games,” he recalled.

He awards a scholarship in her memory each year to a Raymond High graduate who plans to pursue a career in childhood development.

Pratt’s family roots go deep in town and he has no plans to move – his grandfather, Ray Smith, ran the former Sunoco Station on Main Street for more than 30 years and was deputy fire chief. “He had his own fire truck and had the ‘red’ phone at home – when he had a fire call, my grandmother would go to the station to pump gas,” Pratt recalled. His father, Sam Pratt Jr., was a fire captain. And his mother, Rae, still lives in Raymond.

 “I don’t see myself sitting down too much in retirement,” Pratt concluded. “I can start doing the projects around here. In retirement, you can do what you want, rather than what others want you to do.”