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The man who delivered mail for 43 years in Newfoundland

Harry Phelan's long career as a letter carrier was believed to be the longest such service in Canada at the time of his 1988 retirement.

Harry Phelan's long career was celebrated when the veteran St. John's letter carrier retired in 1988

Harry Phelan's long career

Digital Archives

32 years agoVideo
2:08
In 1988, Harry Phelan retired as a letter carrier, after more than four decades on the job. 2:08

Forty-three years of delivering the mail didn't diminish Harry Phelan's desire to keep moving.

Because the main hobby that Canada's longest serving letter carrier intended to pursue in retirement was hiking.

Phelan had already done a lot of that, trekking across the streets of St. John's for four-plus decades, delivering what Canada Post estimated was some 400 tonnes of mail along the way.

His career had begun in Newfoundland's pre-Confederation days, with the Newfoundland Post and Telegraph Company. He'd even brought the mail to the province's first-ever premier, Joey Smallwood.

The one thing he wouldn't miss?

Harry Phelan hadn't let the challenging terrain of St. John's, or the city's weather, hold him back from delivering the mail during his four-plus decades on the job as a letter carrier. (The National/CBC Archives)

Upon retirement, the 61-year-old Phelan said there was one thing that he detested during his long career, as did his fellow letter carriers — a part of his job it sounded like he was glad to leave behind.

Surprisingly, it wasn't the weather or the hilly terrain in St. John's, nor the dogs he encountered on his route.

"Junk mail," he told CBC News, in a report that aired on The National on Oct. 28, 1988, the day Phelan delivered his last letter.

"We hate junk mail — worse than bills."

'An emotional send-off'

Harry Phelan's co-workers gathered to salute the retiring letter carrier, who was believed to be the longest serving letter carrier in the country at the time of his retirement in 1988. (The National/CBC Archives)

Reporter Brian DuBreuil put together a profile for The National about Phelan, which included a look at his route and the people he served.

"His regulars say Harry was always on time and always smiling," DuBreuil said.

Phelan was also well-liked at work, as demonstrated by the crowd that gathered to applaud his long career on his last day on the job.

"They gave him an emotional send-off, complete with a medal of service, a plaque from the prime minister, and of course, a gold watch," said DuBreuil.

Phelan died in 2019, at the age of 91.

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