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Sweet music

Family remembers USPS retiree’s talents

Two men on stage with microphone
Arnold DePass, left, appears alongside jazz trombonist Benny Powell. Images: DePass family

When Arnold DePass died recently, many of the former letter carrier’s co-workers and customers were surprised to learn he had led another life as a trumpet player.

DePass, who is believed to be the first African-American carrier in Opelousas, LA, retired from the Postal Service in 1990 and considered himself extended family to customers he encountered on his route for 27 years.

“He met a lot of really great friends and neighbors that loved him,” DePass’s daughter, Grace DePass Thompson, told The Advertiser newspaper. “When he’d come back home, he’d play music. … He was walking and composing stuff in his head.”

Nicknamed “Sweets” for his easygoing nature with people and music, DePass performed jazz, big band and blues alongside greats like Nat King Cole, Ellis Marsalis, Dr. John and Ethel Waters.

In 1997, DePass was honored with a Living Legend Award from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Thompson said her father lived his postal and musical lives to the fullest, telling her, “You give life all you have because it goes by quickly. I’m taking that with me.”

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