Jerry Kennedy was serving in the U.S. Army in Korea when he first realized the power of mail.
It was 1951, and Kennedy received a card from his father. The message from home lifted his spirits — as well as the spirits of his fellow soldiers, who passed the card from bunker to bunker.
“We had nothing to read on the front line,” Kennedy recalled.
Acting on a company clerk’s suggestion, Kennedy decided to write back to his dad. Cards weren’t readily available in the middle of war, so Kennedy, a machine gunner, crafted one out of cardboard.
So began a tradition that continues today.
Each year since then, the Indianapolis resident has created his own cards and mailed them to friends, family and anyone else who asks.
It began with an annual message for his dad.
“Then my brothers and sisters asked for them, and then their kids. Each year someone else asks me, so I add them to my list,” Kennedy said.
The cards have become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition. Last year, Kennedy mailed more than 200.
He has refined his craft over the years, filling each card with poems, songs of Ireland, and colorful images he gathers and scans onto card stock.
“I do it all by hand,” he said.
Mark Leigh, a USPS maintenance technician who once lived next door to Kennedy, has been on his mailing list for about 17 years.
“I look forward to it every year. I read every part of it, and I bring it to work to share with my co-workers,” Leigh said. “It’s truly a work of art.”
The cards are just one way Kennedy, 89, celebrates his roots. He has traveled to Ireland several times and has even been to his family’s ancestral farm in County Tipperary.
This week, he’ll be honored with an Irishman of the Year Award from the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the nation’s oldest Irish Catholic fraternal organization.
Kennedy is thankful for the award, as well as the important role the U.S. Mail has played in helping him preserve his heritage.
“The Post Office is part of the great things of America,” he said.