RUSHMORE - For more than 31 years, Willy Nath has traveled the backroads of central Nobles County through rain, wind, hail, snow and sunshine delivering the mail -- and often a greeting -- as a postal carrier.

On Friday, many of his customers were stopping in to see him.

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The Rushmore Post Office hosted an open house to celebrate Nath’s retirement after more than three decades with the post office. Thursday was his last day of delivering the mail, although he doesn’t officially retire until the end of December, after his two months of vacation time is used up.

“I started on this route and I’m finishing on it,” Nath said. “You don’t hear that too much anymore.”

Nath grew up near Kanaranzi, lived for a time in Luverne and then moved to Adrian after he and his wife, Marguerite, were married. He ended up working for the U.S. Postal Service after stints in a local packing house and construction.

“When I came here, I wanted a job that paid halfway decent and had better benefits,” he said. “I applied for a full-time job and this one came up, so I took it.”

For 31 years he worked as the mail carrier on Rushmore’s Route 2. He had an opportunity to move into the Route 1 slot over the years, but he said he enjoyed the people on his route and wanted to stay where he was.

“There’s right around 340 people on the route that I service - great people,” Nath shared. “I loved ’em, and that’s why I stayed here so much.”

Driving more than 120 miles on his daily mail delivery route, Nath has had his share of interesting experiences over the years - and not all have to do with the weather.

“One day I had to push a calf from the ditch through the fence and back into the yard with a cow,” he shared. “I’ve chased cows down the road to help a farmer put them back in (their pen).”

And then there’s the weather. Nath said there usually are only about five to seven days per year when the weather is really bad and it’s difficult to either do or complete the route.

“You can have challenges on the rest of the days of the year, from snowbanks and drifting to farm machinery on the road,” he added.

“Just being on the route as long as I have, you can drive through the country and see things you know are always there. Sometimes when something goes wrong on a farm place, you can see it.”

When he first began his career with the postal service, Nath said carriers were encouraged to get out and talk to the people on the route - to keep them interested in getting stuff through the mail.

“That’s basically how you would build your route,” he added.

Now, Nath is leaving his route in good hands.

He and his wife have four grown children, 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. In retirement, the couple plans to spend more time following the grandkids in their school activities and enjoying life at their lake home on Lake Sarah in Murray County.

The Naths also plan to do some traveling and he wants to devote more time to woodworking, doing odd jobs for others and helping out where he can.

Among his woodworking projects are making wooden banks - he’s made one for each of the kids and now he’s working on smaller ones for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“I’ve got different things at home that I’ve made,” he said. “I do a doll cradle, doll stroller and a kids’ rocking chair.”

As for Route 2, someone will be filling in until a replacement can be hired.

“It’s a good place to work in the postal service,” Nath said. “I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m going to miss it. I will miss the people.”