About 30 members of the Seagate neighborhood south of Atlantic Avenue gathered to hold a farewell party for their mail carrier, Lester Flowers, who retired after delivering to their neighborhood for 35 years. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Ron Hayes
The postcards began arriving in the Seagate neighborhood of Delray Beach around May 10.
They bore no postage. They had no cancellation stamp.
The message, printed in a graceful script, sat within a red, white and blue border.
“Rain, Sleet, Snow, Hail …Farewell
“Someone else will deliver your mail.
“Retirement May 31.
“It has been a pleasure to be your mailman for the last 40 years.”
Lester Flowers was born in Delray Beach. He was 30 when he went to work for the U.S. Postal Service in 1981. He’s 70 now.
Flowers spent those first two years as a mail handler at the distribution center on South Military Trail, then three more delivering a route around West Atlantic Avenue.
In May 1986, he took over Route No. 20, the Seagate neighborhood, and never left.
Lester Flowers posed with Andrew and Sheppard Parrott (above), repeating the gesture from 2010 (below right).
For 35 years, he has delivered the mail to about 550 homes — the credit card bills, the junk ads, the Christmas and Hanukkah and birthday cards, and more.
He has brought smiles, too, friendly waves and cheerful greetings and, when he heard a customer was ill, even prayers.
On the afternoon of May 27, some of those longtime customers brought best wishes, memories and gratitude to Lester Flowers.
In Larry and Nora Rosensweig’s front yard, a banner hung across the shrubbery by Seagate Drive.
Happy Retirement Lester
Beneath the mammoth live oak tree, a table was spread with refreshments, including customized sugar cookies frosted to resemble mailboxes, 4-cent stamps and envelopes.
“During the pandemic, we didn’t go out much,” Larry Rosensweig recalled as he waited for the guests to arrive, “so we cleaned out the attic.
“I found a box of letters from around when my sons were born, and there was a letter from my dad congratulating me on my parenting. Lester delivered it.”
When the Rosensweigs moved here in 1985, their son Clark wasn’t 2 years old and Drew wasn’t even born yet. Clark is 37 now, and Drew 33.
If they have a package, Nora Rosensweig said, Lester always knocks on the door. If there’s no answer, he leaves it to the side, by the bushes. Then, rather than push their letters through the mail slot, he balances them in the slot as a sign that there’s a package waiting.
“He’s always got a smile and a warm hello,” she said.
When Flowers arrived at 3 p.m. he brought the smile and warm hello, along with his son Baakari, 17. He also has two older boys, Bryan, 35, and Justin, 40.
“This is one of the best routes in the city,” he said. “We have a seniority option to change routes if we want to, but once I got to know the people here, I wasn’t going anywhere.”
Now the customers who had become friends ambled over to the shade of the live oak tree. Some shook hands. Some hesitated. Was it all right to hug a mailman? They decided it was. They chatted, they sipped, they snacked. They posed for pictures. They reminisced.
When Debbie Cohen arrived in Seagate a month after Flowers, her sons, Lee and Ben, weren’t yet part of her life. Lee is 34 now, and Ben 31.
“I don’t know any other mailman,” she said. “I didn’t know there was such a thing. Lester has seen me through nine yellow Labs, two at a time, and both sons. It’s been like having a happy constant in the neighborhood.”
Reeve Bright has owned as many as five dogs at a time.
“But they never bit Lester,” he said. “He’s too kind.”
No, Flowers said, he was never bitten by a dog. “I’ve been blessed. I’ve been chased by a couple of dogs, but they didn’t catch me.”
Dogs didn’t scare him, he said, and Florida gets no snow.
It gets lightning.
“They tell us don’t be stupid, shut it down,” he explained. “I’ve seen trees fall in lightning, so I wait out in people’s carports. The people know me.”
Flowers had been delivering mail to Anna Parrott’s house for 18 years before Andrew was born, and 20 before his brother, Sheppard, joined him.
Their mother has a photo of them both with their mailman in 2010, when Sheppard was 4 and Andrew 6.
Andrew is 17 now, and Sheppard 15. On this afternoon, they stood with their arms around Flowers to pose again a decade later.
“Lester knew me since before I was born,” Andrew Parrott said. “Forever. He’s really caring, and the sweetest soul ever.”
And so it went, best wishes, memories and a bit of sadness, too.
“I know these people,” Flowers said. “They’re like family. I’m a Christian all my life, and a deacon in St. John’s Baptist Church, so I do the job the way I want to be treated.” When Nora Rosensweig told him they might have to head north because her husband’s father was battling cancer, Flowers assured them he’d hold their mail.
“And I’m putting you on my prayer list,” he added. They are not the only customers who have been on his prayer list.
After about 25 people had arrived, the Rosensweigs poured the champagne and they raised their plastic cups.
“It’s not like we’re losing a mailman,” Nora said. “We’re losing a family friend. We love you, and we wish you nothing but the best.”
For four decades, 35 years here in Seagate, Lester Flowers has come to the distribution center at 6 a.m. to pick up the mail he will deliver to 550 families in this neighborhood. Usually he was finished by 6 p.m., except around Christmas, when there’s so much more mail. Then he might not get home until 8.
“You’ve got to work till it’s done,” he said.
And now it’s done. Officially, his final day was May 31, but that was Memorial Day, so Friday the 28th would be it. This party, then one last delivery and on Saturday his son Baakari’s high school graduation from St. John Paul II Academy.
“Thank you to everyone,” Flowers told the gathering after the toast. “I could do this for a while more, but I need to spend time with my family before the kids get away.
“I’m not going to miss the job,” he said. “But I’m going to miss all of you.”