Ed Koschalk knew the addresses of the people on his mail route better than those of his grown children.
For more than 20 years he delivered stacks of catalogs, birthday and Christmas cards, packages and letters to Liberty Lake homes.
“Rural carriers, by nature, deliver by name,” Koschalk explains.
Developments around Liberty Lake have grown. Faces have come and gone.
No matter the changes, he remained true to his rural routes.
On Friday, Koschalk, 62, retired, leaving behind a job in which he considered himself his own boss - a modern day Pony Express rider in an area that’s grown by leaps and bounds.
In Liberty Lake, where new homes have overtaken fields where quail once nested behind the post office, Koschalk always delivered letters with wisdom and a piece of himself.
He settled naturally into the passengers side of his AMC Eagle station wagon, left leg straddling the front seat. He used that foot to brake and accelerate. His steered with his left hand. He used his right hand to puts letters into boxes.
“It took me five minutes to learn,” he said, holding the wheel. He racked up almost 150,000 miles, kept the car immaculate and stocked full of letters carefully sorted and packaged by route.
“He’s easygoing, detailed, a perfectionist,” said Liberty Lake Postmaster Ray Nacarrato.
Koschalk arrived at work by 6:30 a.m. and began his day sorting letters into slots for each home. One was addressed to a woman who had just gotten out of the hospital. He knew she needed the mail delivered to her back door until she healed.
By 1 p.m., he would load mail bundles and packages sorted by blocks and streets. He joked with other carriers who have taken over parts of his old route, Rural Route 1, the only Liberty Lake route when he started.
By 4:30 every day, he had completed deliveries.
His routine was regular. “It wouldn’t change if he had 100 feet of mail or 20 feet. He can hit the same spot within five minutes every day,” Nacarrato said. “He’ll say, I’ll see you at such-and-such a time. And its usually within two or three minutes.”
“He’s meticulous,” said Koschalk’s wife, Ann. He likes his Valley yard trimmed and cut perfectly. On long trips, he’s the one who packs the car - perhaps from years of packing bundles of mail into the back of his car.
“It’s a family joke, that you put your baggage outside of the car and he loads it,” she said. Even to ensure there’s no wasted space, he’ll fold and pack her bags on long trips, she said.
To say Koschalk, who was once president of the Washington Rural Letter Carriers Association, takes his craft seriously is an understatement.
He recites rules against backing up to redeliver a letter. “You can’t do that,” he waid. “You have to turn all the way around in cul-de-sac or at the end of the street.”
He knows set hours, the amount of mail he delivered - about 2,500 letters on any given day.
And that junk mail? “That’s our bread and butter mail,” he said.
But along with taking time to learn the rules, he took time to get to know people’s lives.
“He’s Joe Good Guy,” Ann said. “Lots of people that greet him, they know his cheery smile and wave.”
They also know that he was always willing to go the extra step to get the mail delivered.
Once he received a letter simply addressed to Grandma and Grandpa, Liberty Lake, Wash. The return address read Holland. He knew a family on his route recently had relatives visiting from there, and took the letter to them. It was the right house.
He knows when there’s been a death in the family: Lots of cards pour in, addressed to only one of the spouses.
He knows the school bus drivers by the honk of their horn.
And when someone has forgotten to put a stamp on an envelope they’ve stuck inside their mailbox, he’ll take it in, put a stamp on it, and let them pay later.
The job is rewarding and stress-free. “I like to think I get mail to the people on time and they’re satisfied with their service,” he said.
And does everyone know him by his name?
“Some do, some don’t,” he said. “Most just know me as the mailman.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo