By Kathleen Mest
Photo by Monique Kuhlman
I answered my phone. “Juan asked me to call you. He saw 2 coyotes in your front yard and wanted to let you know so the kids are safe.” Juan Barrios is my neighborhood mail carrier. And I don’t want to brag, but he’s a pretty great one.
With a wide smile and an energetic step, Juan is the eyes of our community.
“I REALLY ENJOY WHAT I DO.”
Juan celebrates 40 years in the postal service in October and lucky for me, since 1991, his route is in 90808. Logging 412 deliveries and 10-12 miles per day, Juan knows our neighborhoods.
He shares, “I like to make connections with people and keep my eyes open for something out of the ordinary. I’ve called in wellness checks. We look out for each other.” A wellness check is an in-person visit from law enforcement in response to concerns about a person’s wellbeing.
Unfortunately in July 2001, Juan was attacked by 3 dogs. They jumped on him and he fell to the ground. He was able to fight off two of them, but the 3rd dog bit the right side of his face, barely missing his eye. Police escorted him to the hospital where he recovered after 50 stitches on his face.
I asked, “Why did you continue working as a postman after the attack?”
With a smile, Juan replied, “I am a people person. I enjoy the job, most carriers do, and I meet great people. I’ve made lifetime friends. I’ve even been a pallbearer for a customer.
“I really enjoy what I do.”
“HE HAS BECOME A GOOD FRIEND.”
Marde Snedekre is one of the neighbors who has connected with Juan. She remembers the first time she met him.
“It was a really hot day, and I asked him, ‘Do you drink soda?’ I gave Juan a Coke and ice. Now, I buy soda just for him. Sometimes, I give him a lunch bag. He treats me like a mom and I treat him like a son.
“He lets you know what’s going on in the neighborhood. He gives information about police activity. He takes care of the neighborhood.”
“He has become a good friend. Sometimes, he brings my trash cans in. Once, a delivery was too heavy and he carried it inside. And he told me, ‘If there is anything you need, call me.’”
WHAT OTHER NEIGHBORS ARE SAYING…
“Juan was one of the first people to greet me when we moved into the neighborhood 6 years ago. He always has an extra minute to lend a listening ear. For our youngest daughter's 4th birthday, he brought her a birthday cake that said ‘Happy Birthday Charlie!’ She shared it with her preschool class and boasted that Mr. Juan bought it for her. Imagine their surprise to find out that Mr. Juan was our mail carrier. But that’s Juan, always going out of his way. He is part of what makes this neighborhood special.” - Nicki Delia
“Juan makes sure we know when there are coyotes spotted in our neighborhood so we can protect our dog, Polly.” - Angie Beever
“Juan tracked down an expensive package that was delivered to the wrong house for us, went and got it, and brought it to us! He has brought the kids candy at Halloween. And he has played basketball with the kids.” - Eric Anderson
“Juan is an outstanding mail man. He always has a smile on his face and stops to talk to everyone in our family. He’s personable and polite. He gives advice to my daughter on her jump shot! He used to watch out for our elderly neighbor. We’re fortunate to have him in our neighborhood and are happy to know him.” - Burkert-Fellers Family