Sneh Kakar knew that the old tree stump in her front lawn needed to be removed, so the Vienna resident and stay-at-home mom recruited the help of her neighbor on an early summer morning.
As the two worked to dig around the stump to pull its roots from the ground they quickly realized that it wasn't going to be easy.
It was then that Jimmy Marr, her silver-bearded mail carrier of more than 20 years showed up with the day's mail and noticed the two women struggling. He dropped his bag and for several minutes helped the two to dig out the thick roots.
It was just one of several instances that led Kakar to know Marr as more than just a mail carrier.
"Everybody has mailmen in their neighborhood," Kakar said, "but not everyone has a guy as special as Jimmy is to us."
It was a relationship that Marr, Kakar and several resident's on Marr's Vienna postal route, which includes Roland Street and Ceret Court in Southwest Vienna, celebrated when Marr made his last round of deliveries at the end of March.
The surprise party for the postal carrier capped off a 39-year career for Marr, 57, who retired to focus on his family and his Madison High School girls varsity softball coaching position.
THE VACANCY THAT Marr has left will be next to impossible to fill, according to Martha Scweizer, a 28-year resident of Vienna who has had Marr as her postal carrier for the vast majority of that time.
"He became a member of our neighborhood, you always felt good when you saw Jimmy coming around," Schweizer said. "All the mailmen, they're all nice, but there was something special about Jimmy. He always had time to stop by and say hello."
And while the postal carrier is appreciative of all the attention and gratitude he has received, the last thing that Marr sees himself as is special.
"I was a mailman, simple as that," Marr said. "Once I got out there on the streets, I loved my job."
"We're a community, and I'm part of the town, part of the neighborhood, that's all it is."
ATTRACTED by the job security, hours and benefits, Marr signed on as a postal worker at 19 years old, less than one year after graduating from Marshall High School in Falls Church in 1968. He came up in an era much different from the present, he said, which included regularly walking his route and seeing his customers face to face as he made his mid-day deliveries.
"I'm an old school kind of guy, when you walk your route day in and day out, you get to know the people, when they come out to their mailbox, you say hi," Marr said. "I think it was just them seeing that same face delivering their mail everyday, you start to trust them, seeing them and saying hi just becomes a regular part of your day."
His ties to the neighbors on his route grew to such a degree that he was invited to block parties, watched as his residents' children grew up and had kids of their own and even attended a memorial service when one passed away, he said.
"These were people I knew, I talked to them every day," Marr said. "Nowadays I think most people won't even be able to tell you who their mailman is."
A GROWING POPULATION that requires more vehicle deliveries, increased turnover and a changing social structure that sees less people staying home during the day have all led to the evolution of the post office employee's role in the community, he said.
"You don't have the time any more for that [level of person contact], it's just different," Marr said. "There's more volume, there's just a lot more to do now."
And while Marr tried to pass on some of that "old school" technique to the younger postal employees in his final years, he said that he's not sure if the realities of the profession and the neighborhood will allow for that same type of personal contact in the future.
"I try and tell these guys that they need to give good service, to get in there and meet the neighborhood," he said, "and they nod their head and they say they understand ... but I'm not out there with them while they're working, so I don't know."
Still, the appreciation from his neighbors for his time and dedication to their street feels really good, Marr said.
"It makes me feel like I've done a good job," he said. "I was brought up that way, you try and go out there and work hard every day."
That everyday presence will definitely be missed.
"This was a part of little home town Vienna," Kakar said, "the fact that you know the mailman and say hi to him."
"All the neighborhood, he just made us his family."