It's the delivery of kind words, a listening ear and dog treats that Gahanna residents have come to appreciate about mailman Jeff Nesser.
Nesser is retiring Oct. 3 from the U.S. Postal Service after 46 years of service. He began his career at age 18 in Worthington, and he has spent the past 30 years delivering mail in Gahanna.
"The people made my route," he said. "It made my day. The mailboxes are by the curb. I delivered a lot of Amazon packages. The UPS person and I got to be friends.
"I saw enough of the people that they knew I was interested in them. I've watched kids grow up on the route."
Nesser said he came to know the people and their dogs on the route he has walked for 20 years, covering areas between U.S. Route 62 along Cherry Bottom Road to Knob Hill, Crossing Creek and Laurel Ridge.
Resident Elizabeth Gleason scheduled many of her weekdays around Nesser's schedule.
"It isn't that I have tremendously important mail I am awaiting the arrival of," she said. "It's in order to let my dogs out to see Jeff. Each morning around 10:30 a.m., my dogs begin their wait on our front steps. They lay listening for the familiar sound of the mail truck. From the moment the mail truck turns onto our street, our dogs fly down the steps, head to the back door and impatiently wait for the door to open in order to run as fast as they can to the end of the driveway."
Once Nesser arrived at the Gleasons, he stopped his truck, walked over to the dogs and asked them to sit for treats.
"If my husband or I (were) outside, Jeff always took time to visit and share a kind thought," Gleason said. "Jeff has no idea the pure delight he has brought to our family. His act of kindness and generosity with his time reminds us how much a simple act can impact one's life."
Nesser said carriers aren't supposed to give dogs treats, but he did anyway.
"There are quite a few I would give biscuits to," he said.
A dog named Solo is one he has come to love.
"I've been a small-dog kind of guy," he said. "That dog made me fall in love with big dogs. He was the most amazing dog. The first time I walked up with a package, he came out from the bushes. I thought he was going to eat me. He looked like a wolf."
Instead, Solo sat against Nesser.
"He lay on his back as if to say, 'Please do my stomach.' " Nesser said. "I'd give him a scratch, and he was ready for his biscuit. In fall and winter, he has the most beautiful coat. Some days he would howl. I thought, 'What have I created.' I loved him. He was one of my favorites."
Mary Ann Rosa said Nesser's daily delivery was highly anticipated by her dog, who could hear the mail truck from the adjoining neighborhood and would wait patiently by the mailbox until she could see him coming down the street.
"He always had a pat on the head for her, and he never showed up without a doggy biscuit," she said. "I think most every dog in the neighborhood knew Jeff."
Rosa said she also had many great, though brief, conversations with Nesser. Topics ranged from the weather and the OSU Buckeyes to politics.
"He was always so thoughtful, courteous and willing to help," she said.
Beth Arledge said Nesser is one of the most personable people she knows.
"He never passed up the opportunity to wave or share a kind word," she said. "He's definitely a front-porch guy."
She said she and her husband, Craig, would miss him.
Tom Torr said Nesser has been a loyal and beloved mailman.
"He was so caring about people, and he went beyond his duties," Torr said.
Nesser, a Gahanna resident, said he really enjoyed being outside with people and animals. He already has left his route because of medical reasons, but his official retirement date isn't until October.
Nesser said he's being treated for a rare form of melanoma that was discovered by a dermatologist in May.
"Right now I'm going through a medical thing, and that will occupy my time," he said. "I'm in a clinical trial with a new drug, showing good promise. I'm doing really well. I feel good about the whole process."
Eventually, he said, he would like to work with youth.
"I've had some exposure with Youth for Christ on the West Side," he said. "These kids need help. If I get an opportunity to do that, I would love to be involved as a volunteer."
In the meantime, Nesser said, he will continue to visit the customers who have become friends on his route.
The people told me not to be afraid to drop by, he said.
"My wife and I stopped to visit a neat couple after surgery," Nesser said. "He and I started talking about his past and who he was. I thought, holy cow, he jumped out of airplanes. He was a Green Beret and helped start SWAT in Columbus. That's what I love, finding out about people. I was mesmerized."
He said he has appreciated everyone on his route as much as they liked him.
"Thank you so much for a really enjoyable 20 years on that route," Nesser said. "It was enjoyable getting to know you and thank you for being so appreciative. I loved it."