Thanks to a sharp mind and more than his share of people skills, Jack Talafus could have conceivably pursued and excelled in any career he chose. Fortunately for citizens with 80421 zip codes, he chose to serve as a mail clerk in the Bailey Post Office for the last 15 years.
Just as people learned to appreciate his consistent, helpful, and often-witty presence at the post office, they’ll have to learn to get through post office tasks without him once he rides into retirement June 7 – ironically his exact start date with the postal service 21 years ago.
“I will spend my first week of retirement sleeping,” Talafus said. “Then I plan to do a lot of golfing, and maybe travel and see a lot of national parks.”
Talafus moved to Colorado from Chicago, Ill., In 1997, and first worked in Conifer before moving to Bailey.
“I decided I wanted to live and work in Bailey and stayed after it until the postmaster finally got tired of me asking and just said I could have a job,” Talafus recalled. “I was drawn to the benefits and health coverage offered by the postal service, and it is just a great place to work.”
As it turned out, Talafus didn’t use many health benefits offered by his employer for the first 18 years of his career. But approximately two years ago he suffered a heart attack that prompted the need for a triple-bypass surgery.
“I don’t think I went to a doctor from the time I took my physical to get the job, until after my heart attack,” Talafus said. “I had to pay a deductible, but insurance took care of the total, which was around seven hundred and fifty thousand. So I was grateful for those benefits. I was off for three months, then back to work. Now I am a boy scout about my health, and I’m doing great.”
Those who have seen Talafus on the job know that he has the process of politely getting customers in and out of the post office down to an art form all his own. He often lightens the mood of folks in line with a humorous remark while checking a package for a customer, and anticipating the needs of the next customer without ever breaking from his calm, courteous demeanor.
Talafus always stands in the center of the storm, especially on days when the office is short staffed. Even so, he never seems to show the ordinary signs of stress, or panic, that would usually overcome someone constantly exposed to such a hectic pace. Talafus also has a knack for remembering names and faces, which over time has endeared him to many.
By all accounts, and by any standards, Talafus won over the citizens of Bailey while demonstrating a proficiency at his job that went well beyond what is generally required or expected.
When asked what advice he would offer to any young person planning to launch into a lifetime career, Talafus paused briefly.
“Respect,” he said. “Respect yourself, respect life and respect others. If you do that, then generally respect and success will be returned.”
When asked to recall a humorous post office event, Talafus recalled having a couple of foreign descent before him at the counter.
“They had a baby in a stroller and I said, jokingly but without changing expressions, that we did not mail babies. They talked amongst themselves briefly and the female snatched the baby up and walked out. The man thought I said ‘Get the baby out of here.’ I felt terrible. I was probably three shades of red, and explained to the man what I was saying, that I was kidding, and to please have mom bring the baby back in.”
What about holidays, especially Christmas, as a postal employee? Is that as tough as it looks?
“I’ll just say that I knew I was going to retire this year, and didn’t really know exactly when,” Talafus said. “What I did know with absolute certainty was that I was not working through another Christmas. The last one was tougher than any that we at the post office could ever remember. The onset of things like Amazon has something to do with that, but that’s another story altogether.”
The computer age has changed postal work drastically, according to Talafus. He explained that as late as 1998, and even a few years beyond that, all mail had to be pre-sorted and sorted by hand. Computer-aided pre-sorting methods began to take shape until about 2004 when the system for sorting became even more automated.
“It’s much easier today,” Talafus said. “It’s almost as simple as pushing a button in many cases.”
A good guess is that there is actually a lot more to it than that, which Talafus’ replacement will likely soon discover.
While obviously qualified, is would have been a natural progression for Talafus to have vied for a postmaster’s position at some point in his career.
“No, absolutely not,” he said. “I did have opportunities but couldn’t say ‘no’ fast enough. I saw a lot of postmasters come and go, though. Some were better than others, but it was never a job I wanted.”
Talafus has been receiving a wealth of well wishes from longtime customers. He says some have acted sad to see him go, but explained that he is thrilled to open the chapter to retirement and plans on having a lot of well-deserved fun.
“I would just say that it has been a pleasure to serve everyone, and that I honestly tried to do the best I could for them,” Talafus said. “This isn’t good-bye. I’ll still be here, and I look forward to seeing everyone at the gas pump and grocery store.”
Citizens of Bailey are happy for you, Jack, but trips to the post office might never be quite the same.