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|Generosity starts in mailbox|
Recipients of West Monroe woman's kindness say she is 'one in a million'
If there's one thing Cleveland Blackmon Jr. looks forward to during his daily mail route, it's visiting Mary Mauldin's house.
For years Mauldin has surprised Blackmon with different treats in her mailbox. Sometimes its caramel popcorn or goodie bags filled with cookies or brownies that she made earlier that day. Sometimes when it's cold, she will hand out hot chocolate or make soup for any person who stops by her house, be it a mail carrier, trash collector or others.
Mauldin, 81, has done this for years, and Blackmon is not the first mail carrier to experience Mauldin's generosity.
Recently several mail carriers who have come to know and love Mauldin contacted West Monroe Mayor Dave Norris about her. He responded by sending her a letter thanking her for her caring attitude and generosity to others.
"Have you ever been out on a job where it's cold and it's raining and you go by house by house and people don't wave or say hello or anything … well, this lady will come out when it's cold and bring you some chili or soup, gumbo, you name it," Blackmon said. "Things that people ordinarily don't do, she will do. There is not a day that I've been on the route where there hasn't been something in the mailbox. Even on days she doesn't feel good, she will get out and talk to us. She thinks about us before she really thinks about herself."
Mauldin has a defibrillator and two mechanical valves for her heart. She also has arthritis in both hands.
"Yet, she still makes snacks everyday to share," Blackmon said. "To me, that is the essence of what life is all about … a person like her. You don't see much like this in our job. We're exposed to a lot of people, but we don't get the love like we do from Miss Mary. She is one in a million."
Sandy Bozeman, another mail carrier who Mauldin has adopted, said, "It's not just the mail carriers. It's everybody."
Mauldin added, "I just love everybody, and I share my snacks everywhere I go. I carry stuff to my church and I feed them all the time. I'll take stuff to give to my doctors when I go."
"She is special," Blackmon said. "She even goes to Mulhearn's (Funeral Home) and places all over West Monroe and brings them snacks. Everywhere she goes, she brightens people's day. She makes so many sacrifices for other people."
Mauldin is joined during holidays by Blackmon, Bozeman, Michael Wallace, Billy Oliver and Tom Tosten, all mail carriers who've been adopted by Mauldin over the years.
"She has impacted each one of us," Blackmon said.
He remembers when he and his wife were having difficulty having a child. Every day Mauldin told Blackmon she was praying for him and his wife. One day he came bounding into Mauldin's yard and exclaimed that their prayers had finally been answered.
Blackmon's daughter turns five years of age on Christmas Day. He sometimes brings his daughter to Mauldin's house to visit. They will swing outside and, of course, sample some of Mauldin's snacks.
Michael "Mickey" Wallace remembers one of Mauldin's former mail carriers who used to sneak by and take the treats from inside the mailbox.
"Some days I would ask Mickey, 'Did you get your stuff?' and he would say, 'No.' I'd say, 'Jimmy has come by here again,'" Mauldin said.
"She's spoiled us," Wallace said. "Some days I would come by and she would have hot chocolate, or some gumbo or chicken soup. You always look forward every day to see Miss Mary. You know you will get a hug, a smile and something good to eat. No matter how bad your day was, she would make it better."
Blackmon added, "I tell her she is blessed because she blesses us and blesses so many others."
Mauldin added, "I've been through a lot over my 81 years. I've had 23 major surgeries, but I did just what the doctor told me to do and God set my feet back on solid ground."