A longtime fixture of Beacon Hill won’t be around as much after Jan. 31, when Nancy O’Hearn retires from her post as a mail carrier in the neighborhood.
O’Hearn has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for the past 23 years and began her regular route 17 years ago, which includes Louisburg Square and Mt. Vernon, Willow and Acorn streets, as well as various side streets.
“I know all the little in and outs and the historical facts about Beacon Hill you pick up along the way,” said O’Hearn, a 66-year-old Malden resident who hails from Somerville. “I think I could [guide] a pretty good walking tour of the neighborhood.”
During her tenure in a neighborhood she likens to a “small town,” O’Hearn has watched families grow and gotten to know them – and their pets – on a personal basis.
“It’s a neighborhood where people are out and walking around, so you get to know people more than if you were in the suburbs or just driving around,” O’Hearn said. “I’ve seen little kids grow up and families form. You really get to be part of the neighborhood, and after 17 years of bringing the mail, it’s like my office out there.”
One of O’Hearn’s fondest memories on the job is Phillips Street resident Mary Grier bringing her dog Sammy and O’Hearn each a popsicle to share on Gier’s front step on a hot, summer day.
“Sometimes, someone will just drive by on a warm day, roll down the window and hand you a bottle of water,” O’Hearn said. “These small, everyday gestures really mean a lot.”
Besides residents of the neighborhood, O’Hearn has met many world-travelers while working on Beacon Hill.
“You see people from all over the world with all the tourists,” O’Hearn said, “so you try to look at the neighborhood through their eyes, which makes it that much more special.”
After enduring more than her fair share of extreme weather of the job, O’Hearn, who estimates she has walked around 30,000 miles on the job, isn’t easily fazed by unfavorable conditions. “You get so used to the elements, and after so many years, it doesn’t matter how hot or cold you are,” she said.
One luxury O’Hearn plans to fully indulge during her retirement is her interest in painting. (Her favorite subjects include dogs and buildings, she said.)
After stepping away from the pastime for a while, she embraced it again in recent years, and Upstairs Downstairs Antiques at 93 Charles St. now regularly exhibits and sells her work.
O’Hearn has also committed to creating some new illustrations in collaboration with Mark Duffield, a Pinckney Street resident and author of the 2011 children’s book “The Last Shepard & Tales of the Tenth Ornament.”
And while she will admittedly miss seeing her many friends from the neighborhood as often as she now does, O’Hearn said she wouldn’t pine for waking up at 4:45 a.m. each day to go to work.
“I am thankful that I was in such a nice neighborhood, and I really did appreciate everything,” O’Hearn said. “It has been a great place to work for all these years, and I thank [the neighborhood’s residents] for making it so.”