Belmont Shore Postman Sorts His Last Mail
Larry Okamoto was supposed to retire from the Postal Service five years ago, but something kept pulling him back.
The people of Belmont Shore.
“The customers and the people I have met are just the most wonderful around,” said Okamoto, who will hang up his mailbag on April 30 after 35 years. “I’ve been at the Belmont Shore post office for 11 years and this is just the best place.”
After high school, Okamoto, 66, went into the military — he joined the Navy when he was only 17 and was based in Long Beach. After receiving a medical discharge, he went to Long Beach City College and received his A.A. degree in business.
“A few years later, a job with the Postal Service became available,” he said. “I started as a mail processor in 1987.”
He went on to become a window clerk at the Bryant Station, located off Bellflower Boulevard. He then was promoted to philatelic clerk, where he represented the USPS at stamp shows and conventions. Okamoto even has a collection of “error” stamps — stamps that are missing colors or the perforations are manufactured incorrectly.
“My most valuable stamp is a $1 stamp of General John Burgoyne (a British army officer who lost the Battle of Saratoga), and it is in error because when they created the stamp, the paper rolled over itself so when you open it, the stamps and the perforations go in every direction.”
When Okamoto goes outdoors for a break, he will often see a customer who will wave to him and remind him how many days he has left until retirement.
“They keep better track of the days than I do,” he said with a chuckle.
One customer who has turned into a friend is Dorothy Kistler, who lives a few houses away from the post office.
“We’re going to miss him in our community,” she said. “He always has a smile and a grin. He is very helpful and he’s a really good family man. Family means everything to him.”
Okamoto has been married to his wife Barbara for 41 years; they met at LBCC. His son Bryan went to Wilson High School.
His co-workers are giving him a retirement party this Saturday, April 24, and Okamoto says he will always have a soft spot in his heart for the people he has worked with the last three-plus decades.
“I will definitely miss my coworkers, but I will miss the customers as well,” he said. “These are the most wonderful people. It couldn’t get any better.”
Okamoto said one thing he won’t miss is driving and delivering the mail around the Shore.
“The traffic can be crazy sometimes,” he said, “but one thing that’s good is I can still run pretty fast when there is a dog involved.”
So, finally, after five years of delaying the inevitable, Okamoto’s wife told him enough is enough; it’s time to go. The Okamotos are moving to Maine to be closer to family on the East Coast. He said he is ready to do lots of fishing, hiking, and traveling. But is he ready for the change in weather?
“Oh, I’m ready,” he said. “ I have so many layers of clothing ready to go.”