BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
It wasn't the U.S. Postal Service job that made Harry Gilbert Hulsey III. And it wasn't his looks -- the long white hair and beard so reminiscent of Professor Dumbledore or Gandalf -- that made him memorable.
People remembered Hulsey, who died last week at the age of 67 of pancreatic cancer, because he was friendly.
His smile, his voice and yes, sometimes his antics -- pulling his beard over his face and holding it in place with his glasses -- were the tricks of his trade.
But it was the way Hulsey greeted people every day during the three decades he worked at Bakersfield's main post office on Pegasus Road that distinguished him.
In a day when a trip to the post office is as dreaded as one to the dentist, Hulsey managed to allay anger, lower frustration and soothe puckered egos with a greeting or a word that made customers feel that everything was OK.
"He greeted everyone like they were family," said Danielle Miranda, who works in the deli at Country Club Liquor and Deli on Columbus Street, which has a one-window post office that Hulsey worked at before the cancer finally kept him home. "He was the nicest man I ever met."
Hulsey once said he considered every customer his "immediate supervisor." He knew a little about a lot of things and a lot about many more. He'd share tidbits of any and everything with customers, less so when there was a line, but always in the manner of an old friend picking up a dangling conversation.
He may be the only postal clerk in history with groupies. People waiting would forgo their position in line in order to have Hulsey wait on them.
Fittingly, he met his wife, Marsha, at the old California Avenue post office when she also was employed there.
She recalled they shared the same lunch hour together. One day, he suddenly asked her, "Would you like some deer?"
Equally surprised and appalled, she ate it.
"We haven't been apart since," she said Sunday, a day after her husband's funeral. They were married 28 years.
They transferred together to the Pegasus Road location and continued working there until she retired in the 1980s.
Hulsey was born in 1946 in China Lake, and graduated in 1964 from Sherman E. Burroughs High School in Ridgecrest. He attended Bakersfield College in 1964 and 1965 before joining the U.S. Navy. He served for four years aboard the USS Intrepid, and was part of three deployments to Vietnam.
He was just generally a funny person, gentle and nice, who never got angry or upset, his wife said. When they married they blended together their five children from previous marriages, enabling them to enjoy 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Hulsey's beard was his most recognizable feature. His wife recalled that he last shaved in 1985. When people asked him, he had a stock answer: "It grows 11 inches a year."
After his wife had a stroke in 1998, he cared for her. But when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late May, he didn't want to burden her with his care.
He declined chemotherapy, his wife said, telling her "I'm going to die anyway." Plus, he didn't want his beard to fall out.
He continued working at the tiny post office at Country Club Liquor and Deli until he was too sick to get out of bed.
"The last day he worked he said he would miss the customers the most," his wife said.
In addition to his wife, Hulsey is survived by two daughters, Taunya Slaughter, and Denys Hulsey, both of Bakersfield; three sons, Harry Hulsey IV, James Hulsey and Brian Hulsey, all of Bakersfield; a brother, Fred, of Littlerock, Calif.; and a sister, Becky Manning, of Finley, Nev.