Kelly Zerr walked into the Ames Post Office on Tuesday, October 29, 2021 with a new pep in his step. (Not that he ever lacked one.) A new phase in his life was about to begin.
Zerr, a 38-year-veteran United States Postal Service employee, retired from mail-carrying this past fall with visions of new endeavors and more time with family. The longtime Story City resident is said to have left behind a reputation like none other. “I thought he was the best letter-carrier there has ever been at the Ames post office,” friend and USPS co-worker Jeff Holland said. “Kelly took pride in his job.”
On October 29, 2021, Zerr’s last official day with the Post Office, USPS staff, along with select friends and family members, held a farewell party to commemorate his service and reminisce on the past 38 years. Former Ames postal employee Joe Mock, who himself retired in January of 2008, spoke at the event, expressing admiration for Zerr’s work ethic across the board. “An exceptionally fast and efficient postal employee,” Mock stated. “He is an exceptional worker, a great family man, and volunteers for any hard work that needs to be done.”
Zerr came to be known for rarely taking time off work, even for illness, leaving behind over 1 1/2 years of compiled sick leave. Mock believes that some of Zerr’s values can be traced back to his roots in his home state of North Dakota, “where they teach hard work and good work ethic.”
In addition, Zerr’s special background in athletics is thought to have played a significant role in his success as a letter-carrier. A baseball enthusiast in high school, Zerr found his way to Iowa by means of Indian Hills Community College, a known hub for aspiring future professional players, located in Centerville. “For those of you who are unfamiliar with Indian Hills and baseball, it’s a stepping-stone to professional baseball,” Holland explained. “They have made 12 trips to the Junior College World Series. They have had over 100 players sign professionally.
“It’s not just your run-of-the-mill, above average high school baseball player that gets the opportunity to play at Indian Hills.”
Primed to become a smalltown success story in the major leagues, Zerr’s hopes of becoming a pro came screeching to an abrupt halt. “Unfortunately, while pitching at Indian Hills, he sustained an injury to his elbow,” Holland continued. “At the time, Tommy John Surgery was not commonly used or perfected. This meant that Kelly’s career and dream of [becoming] a professional baseball player would have to come to an end.”
Instead of mourning over the loss of what may have been a lucrative athletic career, Zerr hit the workforce. In May of 1983, he was hired at the Ames Post Office.
From early on in his tenure, Zerr was assigned to five different routes during a normal week, filling in for select carriers on their scheduled days off. Such an assignment could, at times, produce friction between carriers sharing a route. This was far from the case with Zerr. “There were no surprises or messes to clean up when you returned to work after Kelly did your route,” Holland stated. “What is even more remarkable is that, after 40 years, everyone at the post office still gets along with and really likes Kelly. Management likes Kelly. The clerks like Kelly. The fellow carriers all like Kelly.
“Most of us have co-workers we don’t get along with. They annoy us. They say things we don’t like. That isn’t the case with Kelly.”
During his 38 years with the post office, Zerr has resided in Story City, where he has also volunteered as a boys basketball coach for the Roland-Story Community School District. In addition, Zerr has spent the past 15 years as the voice of DNA Music Entertainment, a DJ company owned by his son, Derek, working roughly 500 weddings in total. In addition to weddings, the pair travels the Midwest to provide services to anniversary parties and other similar events.
It’s fair to say Zerr has had to carefully balance a busy schedule for nearly four decades. Nevertheless, his performance with the Ames Post Office never took a hit, with Zerr even becoming the union’s branch president at one point for a four-year term. “He has some God-given physical ability that most of us don’t,” Holland said. “But it’s his drive, determination, and work ethic that has made him such a successful letter-carrier.”
Nicknamed ‘Rabbit’ because of his speed of delivery on his route, Zerr has also set an example of loyalty and stick-to-itiveness that is rare in modern-day society. “It’s almost unheard of in today’s world to work at one place for [38 years],” Holland asserted. “People find new lines of work. Companies downsize and lay off their employees.
“During that [38-year] span, the post office has had 10 postmaster generals. Our country has elected seven presidents. Yet, one thing has remained the same: Kelly Zerr’s dedication and reliability to his job.”
Zerr’s retirement ceremony at the post office was far from the first time he has been openly recognized for his exceptional work ethic. Over the years, he has been given numerous awards for his delivering accuracy and superb diligence in the workplace. He was also described as a pillar example of kindness to others, known for helping fellow carriers who were behind on their route and making himself readily available for overtime shifts that others couldn’t handle.
Zerr spent a length of time at the retirement ceremony recognizing and thanking the many people who have been there to assist him throughout his storied career, including his wife and his many co-workers who have come and gone throughout the ride.
Most of the ceremony, though, was dedicated to honoring Zerr himself. And rightfully so. As the Ames Post Office begins a new year of service to the community, it does so without one of its historically best carriers for the first time in nearly four decades. “For [40 years], he has proven to be the most efficient, effective, and accurate letter-carrier,” Holland insisted. “If there was even an MVP award or Hall of Fame for letter-carriers, Rabbit would get my vote.
“I think the post office needs to hire more than one person to replace Rabbit. When you say goodbye to Kelly, you’re not only saying it to a tremendous role-model, friend, and partner, you’re saying it to the best letter-carrier there was at Ames Post Office.”