Stamp of approval: Beloved Hills mailman hangs up his shorts after three decades of service

Cruz Aragon
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Cruz Aragon at Foothills Nature Preserve in Palo Alto, where he’d sometimes stop for a break.

Herodotus is often credited for the U.S. Postal Service’s unofficial motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” At the time, circa 500 B.C., the ancient Greek historian referred to a fleet of mounted couriers entrusted with military dispatches during the Greco-Persian wars.

Over the course of nearly three decades delivering correspondence and packages to Los Altos Hills residents, USPS mail carrier Cruz Aragon experienced his own fair share of inclement weather – and trying conditions. As noted in a letter he left customers in February to announce his retirement, at times he was yelled at, laughed at, spat at, attacked by dogs and even bitten.

“For 29 years in Los Altos Hills, it’s not really easy,” said Anli Zhao, the Los Altos-based postmaster and Aragon’s boss. “You’re driving up hills. But he’s excellent. The carriers and the customers love him.”

Fittingly, Aragon’s letter focused on the “good moments.”

“I have fond memories of some of my postal customers’ kinder-age children, excitedly awaiting the daily mail’s arrival,” he wrote. “Also watching those same children grow from a child, to married with children, or moving away to college or university, even MIT, with promising professional careers.”

Customers along route No. 12 know Aragon for his warm smile, hiking boots and shorts, an informal uniform he wore no matter what the weather. A Newark resident, he began working for the USPS 34 years ago. When the postal employee assigned to the Los Altos Hills route retired, Aragon pursued the position. So-called bids for available routes generally go to the employee with the most seniority, but no one else wanted the Hills route; the streets were and still are narrow and, as Zhao said, hilly.

“Since I was a floater to do different routes, this was one of my favorites because it’s very scenic. … I just took a chance on bidding on it,” Aragon said last month during an interview with the Town Crier.

He had parked his tell-tale red, white and blue truck at Foothills Nature Preserve off Page Mill Road, a favorite break spot, and could see all the way to San Francisco from Vista Point.

“Even though I was pretty young, I got it because a lot of people didn’t want it because of all the driving,” he continued. “It was the farthest route from the post office as far as driving distance.”

And so Aragon began serving the 323 homes scattered between Moody and Page Mill roads.

Over approximately five hours, Aragon navigated up nearly to Monte Bello Preserve. He worked Mondays through Saturdays, with Sundays and a rotating day off.

Over the years, customers came to appreciate Aragon’s courtesy; he greeted everyone by name and even inquired about loved ones’ ailments.

“He’s always been really, super kind and just a very caring person, always if you’re out there willing to chat and just really friendly and very caring,” said Kim Harper, who has lived in Los Altos Hills since the 1980s.

A pal to even pooches

Perhaps the most common USPS trope involves a dog nipping at the feet of a mailman trying his best to reach the mailbox. But even canines liked Aragon. His secret? Carrying a bag of treats designated just for them.

“We had five dogs at one time, and they would sit and line up at the gate when the mail was coming,” Harper said. “It was so cute because they were, like, (lined up) big to small. They would all go to the gate, and they would sit. And he would break off pieces of cookie for the little ones and give the big ones a big one, and it was so cute. They just looked forward to him coming.”

Liz Wilson, another Hills customer, said she and her friends appreciated Aragon’s commitment to his job – especially in their fairly remote neighborhood, where mail theft is a common problem. Sometimes he watched home surveillance video with them so he could identify thieves if he encountered them, and he kept his eyes open for discarded envelopes along the road.

“He has really protected us from having our packages stolen because if they don’t fit in the box, he brings them to the house,” said Wilson, a resident for 21 years. “That’s such a human, caring behavior. I think there’s some cost to him for that because for a while, he had a route and a half to do in a day, so it made his route much longer.”

Some Hills residents reciprocated by baking him cookies, making him homemade candy and, during the holidays, leaving him greeting cards containing gratuities.

Despite those tokens of kindness and the entreaties to stay from co-workers, Aragon has his mind made up. As the new owner of a digital 35mm camera, he plans to enroll in photography classes during his well-earned leisure. 

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