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Real People: After 40 years, postman looks forward to quiet life

By Michael D. Abernethy
Published: Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 20:49 PM.

Wade Tim Coble knows the 63-mile stretch of road that snakes through Snow Camp and tilts into Chatham County better than anyone.

He can close his eyes and picture every curve and turn between Eli Whitney and Snow Camp. He knows the name of every person in all 650 houses on the route and all their relatives: children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren. They know him, too, greeting him with friendly waves as he drives past.

For 40 years, Coble drove Route 1 in Snow Camp as a rural letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. His last delivery was Wednesday. He’s retiring to spend time with his family and run their cattle farm, Eight Willows Farm.

Soon, the 650 homes will have a new letter carrier, but it hasn’t been determined yet just who that will be.

Coble’s last day was marked by recognition from the National Safety Council. He was added to the Million Mile Club — recognizing 30 years or 1 million miles of driving without a preventable wreck. It’s the council’s highest award for professional driving and likened to reaching the peak of Mount Everest.

“It just went along,” Coble said. “All of a sudden, it’s been 40 years.”


WHEN COBLE, 62, started in 1974, there were only two routes in Snow Camp. Now there are four. It was also before most people used road numbers on rural routes, simply addressing a letter to a name and route number. So Coble had to learn all the names in all the houses on the route.

He’ll miss his job and the people on his route.

“I guess I decided when I started that I was going to have to be there awhile. I wanted it to be a job I enjoyed, so I tried to get to know the people,” Coble said. “Over the years, they were kind to me. They’re good folks, and they knew I was trying to do my job right.”

The winters, with heavy snow and ice, were the toughest times. The 18-inch snow of 2000 made delivery “miserable” for a few days, after snowplows inadvertently covered up roadside boxes and pull-offs. Summers were the best.

“I always enjoyed seeing the kids in the summers. They would come out and talk,” Coble said. “I have memories of a girl, 12 or 13. I had a flat tire, and it was raining hard. She came out with two umbrellas. She held one over me and one over her while I changed the tire.”

Another time, a gentleman drove Coble home after his car broke down.

“I’ve been very blessed to have lots of people watching out for me on my route,” he said.


COBLE PLANS TO spend time with his wife, children and grandchildren. He and his wife, Jean, will celebrate their 44th wedding anniversary in December. They have a son, a daughter and three grandchildren. Coble hopes retirement will afford them the time to visit their daughter, son-in-law and 3-year-old grandson at Camp Pendleton in California.

When he and his wife aren’t farming, they enjoy attending auction sales and restoring antiques to sell at their booth, Eight Willows Antiques, at Granddaddy’s Antiques in Burlington.

“Life goes by fast,” Coble said. “I’m hoping it will slow down a little now so we can enjoy our time together a little more.”


Have an idea for a Real People story? Contact city editor Tom Jones by calling 506-3040 or by email at