U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman paid tribute to Garland County postal worker Larry Robertson on Wednesday, eulogizing his longtime rural letter carrier during a speech on the House floor.
Robertson, who died Friday at age 54, had delivered mail around Fountain Lake and Jessieville for more than three decades.
Friends and family members gathered at Mount Tabor Baptist Church west of Jessieville on Wednesday morning for Robertson’s funeral, then headed to Rock Springs Cemetery for the burial.
A thousand miles away, on Capitol Hill, Robertson’s congressman was also honoring his memory.
“Larry was my mailman for more than 25 years,” the Hot Springs-area Republican told his colleagues.
“He was a part of the family. He knew my wife and children, just as we knew his family. He was an integral part of our community,” Westerman said.
Robertson was well-known and well-regarded, Westerman said in an interview.
As he had in his speech, he emphasized the importance of rural letter carriers who serve in Arkansas and elsewhere.
“Everybody knows the mailman, especially when he’s been doing the job as long as [Robertson] has,” Westerman said in an interview. “He even knew our dogs’ names.”
Nationwide, there are more than 78,000 rural letter carriers, according to Jeanette Dwyer, president of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association.
The job description includes a lot more than just mail delivery, however.
“They’re a post office on wheels. They do money orders. They’ll bring your stamps. They’ll stamp your mail. They’ll weigh your package, get it in the mail for you. A lot of folks really use rural letter carriers,” she said.
Most American homes didn’t have regular mail delivery until the start of the 20th century.
Since then, rural letter carriers have played an important role for the nation’s economy and its culture, Dwyer said.
Robertson had deep roots with the U.S. Postal Service.
“It was sort of a family tradition,” said his son, Hudson Robertson. “My grandfather delivered mail, my grandmother delivered mail, several of my uncles delivered mail.”
Larry Robertson delivered the mail no matter the weather. “Through snow and in a tornado,” Hudson Robertson said.
Typically, his father would leave before sunrise and return after sunset.
Before starting his route, Larry Robertson would pick up the outgoing mail from the Hot Springs Village and Jessieville post offices and drive it to the larger post office in Hot Springs.
He would return with the two communities’ incoming mail and then focus on his route.
In later years, he dropped the pre-dawn mail deliveries. But he continued to work six days a week.
On Sunday mornings, Robertson served as the greeter at Mount Tabor Baptist Church, standing at the doors and welcoming visitors.
“He never met a stranger, and he was a very intensely godly man,” Hudson Robertson said.
The letter carrier went to Mount Tabor Baptist Church the night before Thanksgiving, wearing his “GREETER” name tag and shaking hands with those who passed.
He died of a heart attack two days later.
On Wednesday, hundreds of people packed the pews and paid Robertson a final tribute.
“It was a record crowd,” pastor Johnny Bratton said.
Mount Tabor has enough pew space for 300 worshippers.
“We had that — plus chairs,” Bratton said.
Robertson’s greetings — and his farewells — were special, Bratton said.
“Every time we would walk out the door, he would hug me and say, ‘I love you brother.’ And he meant it,” Bratton said.