Pat Montefusco, a welcoming and popular clerk at the Bellmore post office for over 20 years as he handed out stamps, money orders and made residents’ concerns over the labyrinth of postal services easy to understand with simple explanations, has retired from the post office. Known affectionately to many as both the “Mayor of Bellmore” and “Postmaster Pat,” he may be gone from the postal career he served for almost 35 years but he is not far away, having also cemented a position in Bellmore as a premiere entertainer who many of his favorite customers can still see Thursday evenings at the Greek Delight Restaurant on Merrick Road singing his best songs.
In a recent interview with Your NewsMag, he told of his interest in a postal career that began while living in Rosedale, Queens, when his father told him to take the postal test. “My father spent his life in government service” and suggested it would be steady work for as long as he wanted it. That was in 1978.
In 1979 he was accepted and was hired as a window clerk to work in the Valley Stream post office. “I served customers at the window, with stamps, money orders” and did bank deposits when necessary.
He said the mail department was completely manual then, a room where there were scores of people in the back who had to sort the mail. “I stared early, at 5 a.m., to get the mail out to the carriers,” he remembers. “There were 65 routes that had to be serviced,” and postal employees had to memorize all the routes to know which addresses went with which routes.
At Valley Stream, he became good at what he did and caught the attention of his managers. “While I started as a clerk, I trained as a retail window clerk and became a regular retail window clerk in 1983,” which kept him from having to sort mail early in the morning. But, “I worked my way up to acting supervisor, filling in when other supervisors were out.”
The managerial bug prevailed and in 1989 he sprang from the Valley Stream location to pick up a position as manager at the Rockville Centre post office. “I didn’t like the manager’s position at all,” he recalls. “It was a more militant environment,” he said of life there. “The union was tougher, and the management was tough to work for,” he remarked. Faced with an unhappy position at Rockville Centre, he resolved to get out of the stress he was under by asking to be put back on as window clerk. He was granted his wish, but “I got quite a cut in pay.”
A Creative Spark
The impact of a postal career has not hampered his developing interest in music, however, and he has led an equally successful parallel life as a sought-after musician. “My older brother played the bass and the guitar and he listened to a lot of music” back in Rosedale, he continued. The bluesy Allman Brothers and the heavier rockers Deep Purple were early favorites, he maintained.
Postman, and … polished musician!
With friends who were also dabbling in instruments as he taught himself to play guitar – at age 13, they all got together and formed a band to see what could become of it. “My first band was Freedom,” he said,” and we played school dances and CYO halls.” But, “we played FM music on stage,” not simply Top 40 singles.
That “gig” didn’t last, as his friends became interested in other bands or girls – or schooling. But, just as quickly the boys once again came back for the music and reformed as a band in 1976 to play for another 10 years. This time they called themselves, ironically, Inner Vision.
“We still reform once a year, usually in June, and get people from the old Rosedale neighborhood down to watch us play at K.J. Farrell’s” on Pettit Avenue, he said.
Montefusco would ultimately lay the guitar down after fathering three children, as time constraints became unrealistic and he increased his enjoyment in raising his children. It was for his children’s welfare that he took the leap and moved to Oceanside – where he still resides – in 1996, to give the kids a better school life.
As happy as he was in raising his children, the “itch” to still play music silently pulled at him. Since 13 he had been playing guitar, in bands, being around music, blowing steam off in song. “It happened that one day a member of Inner Vision called, and before long we formed a band called Revival,” he told Your NewsMag. Just like that.
He remarked that the name was from an early Allman Brothers song of the same name. What was different about this band from the others was that he became lead singer, and he sang a lot of Allman Brothers covers along with other blues numbers. “Revival lasted until 1997,” he said, when it finally played itself out.
Having by now earned the respect of the community as postal retail clerk, he received a call from another friend who asked him to fill in with two other members of an acoustical trio. Another member had left, and they needed someone to fill in until the other members could find a suitable replacement. He was intrigued, he says, because it was lighter music and he shared singing duties with two others.
And so was born X-Session, a three-piece acoustic outfit that has lasted 10 years, adding a saxophone and an electric guitar to become a cover band. As an offshoot of his acoustical approach, he now plays solos Thursdays at the Greek Delight. “I get to see some former customers,” he said.
Amid the long “dance” of the musical chairs, Montefusco in 2009 happened to take a test along with his son, then 20, to be a New York State court officer, scoring “99 out of 100,” he declared. But after going through a battery of physical and mental tests in relation to the position, in 2011 he was told Governor Andrew Cuomo had put a freeze on hiring new officers to the court.
“I wasn’t looking for a new career,” he told this magazine, so he wasn’t concerned. His position at the Bellmore post office was secure – and he was close to the minimum retirement age. In a town that has 60 mail routes, Montefusco says bar-code readers read the mail now, and it’s all sorted in Melville, per route, before being sent to Bellmore for daily delivery. And, while 80% of the mail was first-class mail when he started his career, “only 20% is now, the other 80% is advertising,” he maintained.
In 2013 he was called for the court officer job, “but I just wasn’t ready,” he said. He asked if he could defer the opportunity, “and they kept me on the list.” This past June, he was called again, three weeks away from the minimum eligible date to retire.
Now retired from the Bellmore post office with a pension, he attended an academy in New York City, and graduated this past Monday, October 20. As a court officer, he is a “policeman of the court,” in which he has learned to fire a fun, learned security details and crowd contro,l and will help court clerks and judges facilitate daily court cases. He maintains he will then be assigned to a court house in one of the five boroughs of New York City.
Bellmore Postmaster Raymond Chatterton told this magazine that “Pat was a very, very good employee who made connections with many customers.” He said several came from other towns such as Merrick, Freeport and Wantagh just to get postal products from him. “He is desperately missed here, because he was a special person” who made the post office tick, he said.
Long-time Bellmore postal customer Joann Martiello of Bellmore agreed, “He was in many ways the heart of the post office.” Calling him a friendly, familiar face, she added that “he was very personable, and everyone knew his name.” He will be missed, she concluded.