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Finding joy in the mail: Longtime letter carrier honored for his service

By BY DIANNA WRAY
March 15, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 14, 2011 at 10:15 p.m.

Kenny Krenek, married for 28 years and a letter carrier for 30 years, is dying of a bone cancer.

MULTIPLE MYELOMA

Kenny Krenek worked for the post office for 30 years. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma last April.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the bone that affects plasma cells, a type of white blood cells normally responsible for antibodies.

The disease develops in 1 to 4 people out of 100,000 a year.

The disease is more common in men.

The prognosis for the disease is three to four years, or five to seven years with advanced treatment.

There is no cure.

Multiple myeloma constitutes 1 percent of all cancers.

Kenny Krenek carefully adjusted the worn blue U.S. Postal Services cap that covered his hairless head.

He pulled his torso straighter in his wheelchair and a proud smile crossed his face, but his eyes filled up with tears as Ken Epley, Victoria postmaster, acknowledged his years of service.

"Thank you. I'm so proud. I've loved what I've been doing. Thank you so much for this recognition. It means so much to me," Krenek said, struggling to keep his voice from breaking.

Krenek, 51, has been a letter carrier for the past 30 years. A big man with a warm, open face and brown eyes that spark with good humor, if a person crossed paths with him on his route they would remember Krenek.

On March 5, he retired and was honored for his service on Tuesday.

"I would love to be going to work. I should be going to work," Krenek said, glancing through the curtains at the glittering blue sky outside the windows. "But I've accepted that God has other plans so I'm letting him take it from here."

It takes a lot of dedication to be a letter carrier, Krenek's longtime supervisor Manuel Cuellar Jr. said.

"With this job, this isn't something you can do if you don't love it. You have to really love people, and he does. He's the guy everybody loves having around. We miss him there now."

Last April, Krenek, who never gets sick, landed in the hospital with a bad case of pneumonia the week before his oldest daughter's wedding. When the doctors told him he would have to be hospitalized, he told them that was fine, but he had to be out by the end of the week.

"I got to walk my baby down the aisle," Krenek said, his face beaming. But the next week he was sick again and a biopsy showed he had stage 3 multiple myeloma, a rare incurable cancer of the bone.

"We didn't tell many people about that, because he's a fighter and miracles happen, but we knew it wasn't good," his wife, Anna Krenek said.

From then on they were in and out of the the hospital in Houston. For the first time, Krenek had to use his sick leave - he had saved up 1,400 hours of it - as he underwent chemotherapy that stripped him of his hair, and eradicated his immune system.

In October, he received a stem cell transplant, and seemed well enough to come home.

"I even got to go back to work. I worked half a day, but then I was just so tired," he said. The cancer isn't painful but it wears on the body, wears the body out," he said.

In January, he got sick again, and was driven by ambulance back to Houston. Last Friday, the doctors told him there was nothing more they could do, so Krenek decided to come home for his remaining days.

He agreed to officially retire on March 5, but asked for just one thing - a certificate from the postal service, commemorating his years on the job.

DELIVERED MAIL IN WHARTON

Growing up in Wharton, Krenek said he was never university material. He wanted a steady, conservative job. When he saw a flyer tacked up advertising for the post office at $7.75 an hour, he decided that was the job for him. He started on Dec. 27 1980. He loved the work, loved his customers.

Krenek worked 13 years delivering mail in Wharton before he and Anna decided to move to Victoria. He started carrying mail in Victoria in 1993 and got to know the area so well that he and Anna delivered newspapers on five different routes every morning before he went into work.

He went through all of the usual things; getting chased by dogs, delivering in unfriendly neighborhoods, making sure the mail gets delivered in the rain or 100 degree heat - but he loved his job.

TOOK PRIDE IN HIS JOB

"I always liked the freedom of going out on the road, of working outdoors. Besides, everybody loves to get the mail," he said.

During his months in the hospital, being outside was one of the things he missed the most. Anna took every chance to get him out of his hospital room.

"I told the doctor, you can't keep a mail man in a closed room," Anna said, smiling though her eyes were wet with tears.

Krenek laughed, remembering.

"Even when that cold Arctic blast came through, I just had to get out there and feel that cold air, feel the outdoors," he said.

Now, Krenek said being honored for his service meant something to him, because he took a lot of pride in being a letter carrier.

"We're one of the last companies where our work really keeps us in contact with people," Krenek said. "They know us and we know them. The world is moving so fast now, we lose that personal touch, and it's important - being connected with people is something we shouldn't lose."

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