Mail carrier Vinnie Walsh/ Credit: Meredith Kristall

He was part of the neighborhood, part of the fabric of the community. Though he didn’t live in Needham, that’s how numerous residents described Vincent “Vinnie” Walsh, who delivered mail to their homes for 38 years, and who died unexpectedly Jan. 17. 

“He watched my kids grow up,” said Beth Shulman, who knew Walsh for 25 years. “He got to know our families in the neighborhood. When the kids would see him coming they would run over and talk to him.” 

Shulman said he created a connection with everyone on his route over more than three decades, as kids in the neighborhood grew up, went off to college, got married and had children. She said Walsh shared in all of it through daily chats on the doorstep, and he was attentive to older residents who were alone. “He always asked about us, and checked in on us, like we were an extension of his family.” 

Needham Postmaster Dave Kraft said Walsh had the same route for 38 of his 40 years with the U.S. Postal Service: Route 9, which included streets along and around Great Plain Avenue near Olin College. “It was his choice to stay on that route. He loved it out there,” said Kraft. “And the customers loved him. If he was off more than two days they would call and ask where he was.” 

“That was his pride and joy. He absolutely loved what he did,” said his daughter, Kelly Hatchfield. “He spoke of the families that he knew in Needham often. He truly took the time and communicated with so many of them and knew so many of them.”

Hatchfield said she and her family have been hearing from people on Walsh’s route, one of whom is 35 and has known her dad her whole life. “She said they refer to him as the Mr. Rogers of the neighborhood.”

Walsh lived in Stoughton, which made for long work days. His son, Patrick, said his father would get up at 5 in the morning and be on the road at 6, usually not coming home until 7:30 or 8 p.m., six days a week. “But he never wanted to retire, that was kind of his thing. We were always asking him when he was going to retire but he said, ‘I still love it, I still love going, I still love the people.’ He said, ‘I don’t want to give that up.’ He loved the community.”

And that included dogs, defying the stereotype that letter carriers and dogs don’t mix. “He knew all the dogs’ names,” said Hatchfield. “He had a box of treats in his postal truck so he would always have a treat in his jacket, and every single time he would greet them with a treat,” she said. “He got to know the dogs very well.”

Meredith Kristall was on Walsh’s route for five years and said she feels blessed to have known him, especially when COVID brought isolation. “During the pandemic, what face did we see everyday, outside of the family? It was Vinnie,” she said. “It was a gift.” 

At Thanksgiving 2020 Kristall placed a sign in her yard thanking delivery people, and she cherishes the photo she took of Walsh in front of it. She said he was really efficient on his route, yet always had time for a greeting and to have a conversation. “He was like love and light.”

Shulman said she thinks it’s rare in this day and age to see someone like Vinnie Walsh who is so happy doing his job, and who is beloved for it. “It seems like from another time to have such a relationship … to know the person who delivers your mail.”

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