Back in June, 2001, I wrote a column in this space called “The World’s 10 Nicest People.” Over the years, I’ve been asked time and again to do a sequel. You may wonder why it’s taken me more than 16 years, and over 400 columns, to come up with that new list. Hey, I just happen to have very high standards.
Joe the Italian Mailman: When Norman the Mailman, a first-ballot shoe-in on my original list, retired, I thought he was irreplaceable. Then we got Joe. And don’t think I’m being politically incorrect when I call him “Joe the Italian Mailman”: That’s what he calls himself on his Christmas cards and on the countless notes he leaves us along with gifts of fresh veggies and spices from his garden. When our load of mail is too big for the mailbox, he delivers it to our door. With a treat for Kemba, of course.
Marybeth Allen: Make that Saint Marybeth. She’s been a NICU nurse for most of her professional life, and it shows in her kind and softspoken manner. She’s also generous and thoughtful, and is one of the best listeners in the world. If you compliment her on her amazingly calm demeanor, she says, “You should see me when I get really mad!” Well, Marybeth, it’s been 30 years, and we’re still waiting.
Roosevelt at First County Bank: Our youngest son Robby thinks Roosevelt, Assistant Branch Manager at our local First County on the Post Road, is the coolest person on the planet. He’s also one of the nicest. You know those commercials where they try to make banking seem fun and friendly? Roosevelt actually does that. Except that I have to figure on a 20-minute visit, so we can dissect and solve the problems of the Jets, Mets, and Knicks.
John McKay: John was Robby’s roommate for all four years they were at USC. Do you know anybody you’d want to have as your roommate at school for four years? John is easy-going, kind, friendly — and knows everything there is to know about football. Kids love him, parents love him, guys love him, girls love him. Ask Robby’s friends at USC and back here in Westport, and not one has a bad word to say about John.
Jon Edwards: Another fantastic John. (Okay, different spelling.) Jon has been our builder/handyman/friend for 15 years, covering countless projects. If we tell him we have a problem, he’s here before we hang up the phone. If we tell him no hurry, he does it now. There is nothing this gentle giant can’t do. And like the other John, he doesn’t know how to frown.
Bree and Alejandra: My Post Road Starbucks baristas supreme. No matter how crazy that place gets, always a smile. Always “Have a great day!” and “Hope to see you again soon, Hank!” And they really mean it. They — along with a Grande Cold Brew — start my day off on the sunny side.
Tom Pajolek: Tom might just be the most upbeat guy I’ve ever met. He’s always ready for skiing. He’s always ready for hiking. He loves dogs. He’ll happily talk toanyone.Everybody likes him. He likes everybody. He even likes kale.
Fran at Bostwick’s: She’s been the smiling bartender at our favorite restaurant in Amagansett forever. She knows what you like to eat. She knows what you like to drink. She remembers to ask about every member of your family, by name. She found me a surfing instructor. She found me a dog sitter. In her day job she works with first graders — and I’ll bet money they adore her.
Sam at Mobil (next to Barnes & Noble):Carol and I were driving home after a Lake Mohegan hike with the dog. She wanted a Sunday New York Times, and was ready to stop . . . anywhere. I said, no, we gotta go to my favorite guy, Sam, at Mobil. As she was paying for her paper, Sam asked, “Is that your husband in the car?” When Carol nodded, he said, “Keep him. He’s a good guy.” I guess the feeling’s mutual.
Kelly and Alison (our daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law-to-be):Kelly has been up pretty much every night for seven months with Baby Ryan. After a recent all-nighter for her, I stopped by. I figured she’d be an ornery wreck. Not at all. Instead, she said, “I felt so sorry for him. His teeth hurt so much, poor thing.” That’s Kelly, our angel, who makes everybody feel like the most important person in the room. And then there’s Alison, who’s always up for everything — including long bike excursions with yours truly. We ride side by side (traffic permitting), talking the whole way. I love the wide-eyed, positive way she looks at life. I love what she has to say. And it doesn’t hurt that she has the nicest little North Carolina accent.
Carol and I — with sons only — always wondered who’d look after us in our old age. Thank God, now we know!
“The Home Team” appears the first Friday of every month. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com.