ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA9) -- Thursday was a special day for one mailman in Arlington: he retired after more than 30 years on the job on the exact same route in the Dominion Hills neighborhood. On his last day, the community wanted to make his last day - extra special.
In a little section of north Arlington sits a neighborhood called Dominion Hills, and on Thursday morning it seemed like a block party was about to start. That's not an unfamiliar feeling here, for the neighborhood often described as, "Mayberry-like." But this get-together is for one person in particular, the mailman, Doug Dinkle.
"It's the end of an era," says neighbor Noreen Hannigan. "It's just been such continuity to life here in the neighborhood. It's just not going to be the same after he retires."
"He's one of those people you don't want to let loose. (I'm going to miss) his smile. He always has a smile no matter what," says neighbor Denise Ziegler. "To open up your door and see that, is just really genuine. That's going to be missed."
Doug is a rare breed; he's been on the same route for more than 30 years and he loves dogs. "Doug gives the dogs milk bones, treats, so they all sit at the doors and wait for him to come," says another neighbor.
On Thursday, the celebration was a little bitter-sweet, because Doug is retiring from the post office.
Doug arrived for his last day of work, to a big, cheering crowd. The welcome was a surprise, but not surprising, at least to Doug.
Over the years he's done more than just deliver the mail; he's become a part of their lives. "Every Christmas he comes and brings kids candy canes," says seven-year-old Addison, who said she wished he wouldn't retire.
Doug watched families grow, and made memories. "He's taller than I am! I can't believe this!" said Doug as he saw one neighbor.
But even on his last day, just as he has done for the past 31 years, he delivered the mail, in between delivering hugs, of course. "Good luck buddy, God bless you," said one neighbor.
"We have benefited in the most beautiful way from you, we thank you," said another neighbor.
He's never been late for his rounds, even though he's worked through three hurricanes, tornado warnings, Snowmageddon, ice storms and heat indexes over 110. "He's always smiling no matter what, the weather, no matter what's going on," says neighbor, Hannigan.
Doug recognizes this is unusual and it may be Mayberry-esque, but to him and Dominion Hills residents, it's just the way it is. "This is from me," Doug said as he held up a hand-made sign that read, 'Thank you Dominion Hills, love, Doug the mailman.' "Thank you all, from my heart," he said, "I'm going to miss these people so much."
Doug Dinkle was born in Arlington and grew up there. His father was a letter carrier in Georgetown in the 1960s as well. Doug says he plans on staying busy after retirement, as a dog walker.