Kirk Cistaro

Special Delivery: Buckhannon bids farewell to beloved mailman Kirk Cistaro

BUCKHANNON – Every delivery was a special delivery when it came from Kirk Cistaro.

But Boggess Street resident Margie Miller said her daily USPS mail delivery will feel a little different after Cistaro – a longtime city mail carrier whose routes cover the left side of Route 20 from McDonald’s to the courthouse – retires on April 30, 2024.

There’s just something special about him, Miller said, and that ‘something’ sounds like a deep-seated kind of charismatic kindness that lights up her day.

“It’s his friendliness and his patience,” she said of the 57-year-old mail carrier. “I know very often he has two routes, but he still has time to talk and visit with you or ask about you. He’s never in a hurry and just always so kind and caring and always has something funny to say.”

Cistaro shares the same affinity for his customers. The Clarksburg native, who drives south for work every day, began working at the Buckhannon Post Office in October 1993 and never left.

“That says a lot about this office because when I first started, I lived a mile-and-a-half from the Clarksburg Post Office, and my kids went to school with the Clarksburg Postmaster’s kids – they were really good friends,” Cistaro told My Buckhannon recently. “He must have asked me 10 to 15 times, ‘Why don’t you transfer?’ and I said, ‘I really like it in Buckhannon, and I’d rather drive 35 to 40 minutes and be happy than walk to work at a bigger office that had a lot more headaches.’”

Buckhannon has been glad to have him.

“He’s just always so good-spirited, and during the winter months when it’s really dark, he’ll say, ‘Springs’s coming!’” Miller said. “He always has an encouraging word, and he’s just so considerate of everyone’s mail and making sure it’s delivered properly.”

Miller orders her medication through the mail, and she’s grateful to know it’s in safe hands with Cistaro.

“He always rings the bell and has the package for me,” she said. “He and I have had so many mutual friends throughout the year, and he was such a special friend to Ellen Nickell before she passed. She just was so fond of him, so familiar with his family, and he was so good to her.”

Delivering the daily mail wasn’t originally part of Cistaro’s plan; teaching was. After high school, he attended college for six years while working toward earning a degree in education. He was also working the midnight shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. at a local grocery store and had managed to accumulate 100-plus hours toward a teaching degree.

He wasn’t getting enough sleep, so he changed course.

“Around that time, the post office called and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll go to work at the post office,” Cistaro said. “Buckhannon was the first one with an opening, so I came here.”

Ask him to name one thing he likes about the job itself, and Cistaro can’t narrow it down. As a self-described creature of habit, he enjoys the regularity of routes.

“I like to have a schedule and do the same things every day,” Cistaro said. “In the post office, when you’re on the same route every day, you’re doing the same thing. That’s one thing I’ve liked – that it hasn’t changed much. I love the repetition, I love being outside, I love the exercise that you get through walking – there are so many things I like about it.”

But whether it was at the grocery store job he had in college or refereeing sports, Cistaro has always liked interacting with people the most.

“That’s one of the reasons I’ve always stayed here,” Cistaro said of Buckhannon. “I like the route, but it’s the people. I enjoy the people I work with, the people I work for, and the town I work for.”

The feeling is mutual. Park Street resident Elissa Linger recalls when the prior mail carrier retired, and Cistaro was the newbie in town.

“Whenever there’s change, it’s hard, especially for older people, and my mom was like, ‘Oh, I hope we get somebody nice,’” Linger said. “Well, when Kirk showed up, it was like a ray of sunshine. It was like the first pretty day of spring. He always has something good to talk about or something funny to talk about. He was so good with older people. If I was traveling, he’d take time to talk to my mom, and you just don’t find very many people doing that now.”

So, what makes his relationship special with the people on his route?

“I had never thought that having a job as a mailman could impact people’s lives like a teacher, coach, nurse or policeman,” Cistaro told My Buckhannon. “But every day, when I go to work, I know I am going to interact with people, and if I just show kindness to those people, it might not change their whole life, but it might make their day brighter by bringing sunshine into their day, or sometimes just by listening to them.”

“That’s a great opportunity I have – to be kind to people through my job,” he added.

Cistaro enjoys interacting with business owners as he passes in and out of their storefronts, and being on the same route for so many years has enabled him to watch his residential customers pass from one life stage to the next. If someone along his route passes away, he often attends their funeral.

“Being on the same route for so long, I’ve seen kids on my route graduate, get married and have kids,” he said. “For some of the older people who live alone, it’s nice to finally meet their family that I’ve never met before when I go to their funerals. I see both ends, and it’s nice to be able to tell their family members how nice they were.”

“I’ve been blessed with so many good friendships just by bringing people their mail,” Cistaro continued. “It’s amazing how that can connect people. It’s like a tree: It starts from a branch, and before you know it, you’ve got hundreds of branches, and they’re sprouting.”

Cistaro feels lucky to have worked for the U.S. Postal Service during a time when getting the daily mail was an important ritual – one that’s now fading due to complex, technological forces. He’s equally glad to be leaving now to spend time with his wife, Theresa, adult children and grandchildren.

“We’re heading more toward being more package-driven than we are mail-driven,” Cistaro said. “I don’t know where the Postal Service will be 10 years from now, but I feel lucky that I got to be a part of it when we were something that people looked forward to every day … when people would still mail a lot of cards out – birthday cards, Christmas cards, cards to say, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of you.’”

“We brought a lot of that when I first started, and now we’re getting away from it because you can just as easily send a text, but it’s not as heartfelt,” he added.

As Cistaro’s retirement approaches, his customers aren’t convinced he can be replaced. As he began his last week on the job Monday, a surprise sign wishing the longtime city carrier a happy retirement appeared where he typically parks near Brushstroke Ministries on Route 20.

“I saw [Kirk] today, and I said, ‘Oh my God, you’re a celebrity, and he said, ‘I saw it – I can’t believe it,’” Linger said Monday. “He said, ‘I’m going to miss everybody, but it’s time.’”

“We’re going to miss him,” she added. “We’re going to miss Kirk so much.”

Miller agreed.

“He’s a really special person,” she said. “We’ll really miss him.”

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