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Running deep

USPS bonds three generations in Stillwater, OK

The postal career of Letter Carrier John Stokes, far left and far right, has overlapped with those of both his late father, Perry, and son, Brady.

The first time John Stokes tried to follow in his father’s footsteps as a letter carrier, things didn’t quite go according to, well, postal regulations.

John, a 51-year-old USPS employee in Stillwater, OK, grew up 25 miles away in Cushing, where his dad, Perry — known as “Red” — began a five-decade career in 1959.

John recalls a few times at age 10 when he would gather up mail in the neighborhood and redeliver it.

Only he wasn’t quite as accurate as his dad was.

“He got some calls from the neighbors,” John says with a chuckle. “But they were good-natured and understanding.”

Red was far more encouraging when John decided to become an official letter carrier in 1999. Their postal careers would overlap for a decade until Red died in 2009, still going strong at 80 with no intention to retire.

“He loved his job more than anything,” says John, who occasionally dons a postal uniform necktie in memory of his always sharply dressed father. “He was an icon in the community.”

Although the postal pair never got to work together in the same office, that hasn’t been the case for John and his 20-year-old son, Brady, who joined the Postal Service in 2019 as a city carrier assistant.

They see each other daily on the job in Stillwater, a lively city of 50,000 that’s home to the flagship Oklahoma State University campus.

“It’s strengthened our relationship,” John says, “just as it did with my dad. The Postal Service gave us something important in common: This is our area where we serve humanity. Now I get to share that with my son.”

“My father and grandfather definitely had an influence on me,” says Brady, who’s doing “a little college and a lot of work” in hopes of establishing a long-lasting postal career. “They were always happy, and they always talked to me about their jobs.”

Brady enjoys postal discussions with his dad even more these days, whether it’s at the office or during family gatherings.

“I like talking to him,” he says. “We’re more buddies now.”

“A father-son duo is a rarity,” says Stillwater Customer Services Manager Sheri Maynard, “and I like it. They share the same strong work ethic, and they’re both willing to help anyone.”

Maynard often hears John ask her: “‘Is he doing OK?’”

Which is inevitably followed by Brady’s voice: “‘Is my dad talking about me again?’”

“Just the other day, I told John, ‘He’s doing great,’” Maynard says. “‘He’s taking after you.’”