Grace behind the wheel
UPS driver turns in his brown uniform after 37 years
By GLYNIS HART
CORNISH – Ray Grace knows everyone in Cornish, and they know him, too. For 37 years, he’s been working for United Parcel Service, and for 34 years he drove the same route. He and his wife Teri raised their three daughters here, so they know the younger generation, too.
That makes his retirement from his UPS route a bittersweet occasion. “It’s been a great job,” said Ray. “I like the people. They are excellent.”
Grace is always smiling and upbeat, which endears him to his customers as well as the ladies at the Cornish Post Office. On Saturday, two of them will be helping Teri host a get-together for Ray at the Plainfield Fire Department from 1-4 p.m.
“It’s my way of letting him say hello to all the people on his route,” said Teri.
Ray grew up in Cornish, while Teri is originally from Lebanon. They met in high school and have been married for 38 years. One thing about driving for UPS, though, is that packages are delivered the day they’re supposed to be delivered – there’s no “save it ‘til tomorrow.”
“At Christmastime you don’t even have a husband,” said Teri. Drivers of a package truck, like the one Ray drove, work a lot of overtime. Ray’s truck is the smallest type in the UPS fleet, with room for 200 packages in the back.
When Ray started, things were very different. “Everything was on paper,” he remembered. “There was no internet. When I started I’d probably get 20 to 30 packages a day in Cornish. Now there’s like 80. Everything’s heavier.”
Thanks to the internet and online shopping, a job that used to have a heavy holiday season is now heavy year-round. The trucks haven’t changed much: the seats are still uncomfortable, and the interior is cold in the winter, hot in the summer.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” said Ray. “You have to really be a good driver, especially in the winter.”
Meanwhile, he enjoys the interaction with the customers. “People say, ‘You’re always smiling’ and I don’t even realize that I’m doing it.”
In 2014 Ray and Teri were on vacation in Florida, walking across the street, when they were struck by a car. Both were severely injured.
The people of Cornish responded with a massive show of support: donations, calls, letters. “The community was excellent,” said Ray.
Teri brought out two quilts the Cornish quilt guild made for them that year: one with a brown/outdoor theme for Ray and a brightly colored one for Teri, who works as a nurse. The quilts usually live on their couch, she said, unfolding them lovingly.
“It’s definitely a community that comes together for everyone,” said Ray.
Although Ray’s official retirement day is November 9, he has some vacation time to use up, so his last real day at work was yesterday.
“It does feel a little weird,” he said. Meanwhile, he’s available to the next drivers as they try to figure out his route.
“They’ve already called me today,” said Ray.