- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - In a world fraught with hyperbole and beguiled by euphemisms, Marty Keur is a breath of rarified air: “I’m just a mailman.”

But the hundreds of people he’s helped stay connected to loved ones in an old-fashioned way might disagree, according to The Grand Rapids Press ( http://bit.ly/1gSb35m ).

So, too, is the young girl of 8 who used to skip alongside him as Marty tramped her family’s street, and grew into the young mother whose own kids now do the same.

And let’s not forget the three people whose lives he saved.

Few of us have walked in Marty’s shoes. Few of us could, banging out between eight and 11 miles a day, dodging everything from loose dogs to lightning.

Not only is he retiring after 36 years with the United States Postal Service, but nearly 32 of those years walking - and I stress walking - the same route, on Grand Rapids’ North End, uphill from Riverside Park.

He laughs. “I guess I just don’t like change.”

It was never a life-long dream, just something he gravitated to after graduating Creston High School in 1971, then serving six years with the U.S. Navy SEABEES as a heavy equipment operator.

He returned to Grand Rapids a married man, seeking a job in construction. When he found none, his father quipped, “Why don’t you become a mailman?”

On Feb. 10, 1979, he did. And later this month, he’ll hang up his pouch and reflect on a career spent in service to others.

He’d had his chances to switch to a motor route, where you drive a modified Jeep and deliver mail curbside. But he preferred to use the vehicle only to travel from loop to loop, snubbing what he calls “the tin can” where you can’t stretch your legs or commune with patrons. “I would have hated it.”

At the age of 60, he’s still got legs for the job, but his shoulder and hands are feeling the years. “No carrier retires fully healthy,” he says with a grin.

And sometimes, they retire with baggage of another kind.

For one, Marty rarely got to see either of his kids - Marty Jr. or Melissa - play sports, since he typically worked Saturdays, which doubled as game day.

“Three grand-slams,” he says of his son’s prowess in Little League competition years ago. “I never saw a one.”

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