Last messenger

James Balluff

James Balluff was the last of his kind.

Balluff retired this month after an almost 53-year career delivering mail — which he spent entirely at the Elmhurst, IL, Post Office.

He was the office’s last employee to have the title “special delivery messenger.” The title was given to individuals who were hired for Special Delivery mail, an expedited service that was discontinued in 1997.

Nationwide, about 100 employees have special delivery messenger job titles.

“I once had to deliver a box of flowers in a poor section of town,” Balluff recalled. “A woman answered the door. She got all excited and was bouncing around like a kid. I thought, man, this job is great.”

Balluff began his career in February 1965, when the hourly rate was $3.07.

Seven months later, he was drafted to fight in Vietnam, where he was seriously injured during an artillery strike soon after his Army tour began.

“My leg was bleeding,” he said. “It wasn’t critical. I got a little gangrene. They had to cut out part of my calf muscle.”

Balluff was later stationed in Saigon and then Hawaii before returning to the Elmhurst Post Office, where he worked with 17 Postmasters and 67 supervisors during the course of his career.

Post Office Operations Manager Gregory Harris said Balluff was “an esteemed member of our postal family and … an historical figure.”

The 73-year-old Balluff, who has survived a heart attack and other ailments, and his wife Susan had a deal to retire together so they can spend more time with their two daughters and seven grandchildren.

Susan concluded her career at a spinal research institution in December, but Balluff decided to hold on until January.

“My favorite time at the Post Office is always Christmas. We’re busy, listening to Christmas carols and everyone’s in a good mood. So I figured I’d leave after that,” he said.

He paused for moment, then said: “But I kind of miss it.”

New prices

A new Postal Service video explains the price changes that took effect Jan. 21.

The changes raised Mailing Services product prices approximately 1.9 percent, while most Shipping Services product prices increased an average of 3.9 percent.

USPS released the 1-minute video this week.

The Retail and Customer Service Operations Blue page has a 2018 price change kit for Postmasters. The Postal Explorer site also has a list of the new prices.

Real a-peel

The Meyer Lemons stamp

The Postal Service has released its Meyer Lemons stamps.

The 2-cent denominated stamp can be added to other stamps to meet the necessary postage for a given mailpiece.

The stamps are available in coils of 10,000. For collectors, the stamp is also available in coils of 500.

Thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or sweet orange, the Meyer lemon has its roots in China, though no one knows when the plant first appeared.

Frank N. Meyer, for whom the lemon was named, encountered the dwarf fruit trees in the early 1900s in Beijing, where they were grown primarily for ornamental rather than culinary purposes. Meyer, who worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, had been tasked with discovering native plants of other countries that might thrive in the United States.

USPS dedicated the stamp Jan. 19 at a philatelic and postcard show in New Orleans.

The Postal Service’s news release has additional information.

Need to know

Ken Bell is a custodian at Great Lakes Area’s Chicago Network Distribution Center.

WasteWise award. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently recognized two Postal Service areas for their increased efforts to reduce waste in 2017.

Northeast and Great Lakes areas were recognized with EPA WasteWise Awards, primarily for their contributions to the National Recycling Operation, an initiative to expand and standardize postal recycling efforts.

By properly identifying recyclable material and diverting it from landfills, both areas saved USPS thousands of dollars last year and generated revenue from recyclables. Great Lakes has also reduced annual trash costs by $1.6 million each year since fiscal 2013.

WasteWise is an EPA partnership to promote waste reduction and sustainable management practices. The EPA site has more information.

Informed Delivery. Employees can sign up for Informed Delivery, a free feature that provides users with digital previews of their incoming mail, at Sign-up is voluntary and must be completed off the clock.

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