Veteran postal worker bids farewell to Immokalee roads

IMMOKALEE, Fla. – Immokalee native James Wryals is walking away from his job as a postal worker after 37 years of enduring thousands of miles of the area’s dirt roads.

His route has become shorter since he began the job in 1980, but it’s much longer than an average route in a larger city.

“Most of my career it was 110 miles a day. Now it’s about 86 last couple of years,” Wryals said. “That’s why they call it rural route.”

Because of his customers’ distance from the postal office, Wryals has worked for 37 years to ensure they could avoid a visit to the Immokalee Post Office.

“A lot of them live so far out of town, I try to get their packages to them, make sure they don’t have to come in,” he said.

In his time with the United States Postal Service, he’s also imparted his knowledge to coworkers — many of them longtime employees themselves. Juanita Martienz said in her 16 years at the post office, she’s gained a tremendous amount of respect for Wryals.

“James — he’s not of this earth,” she said. “It’s big deal to work somewhere 40 years and to give the type of service and be as dedicated as he’s been.”

His coworkers, though sad to see Wryals go, have been hearing about his pending retirement for years. That’s why they never thought he’d leave, Mona Fiore, Wryal’s coworker of 33 years, said.

“We’ve been hearing it for a while now so it was actually quite a shock when he said ‘This is it.’ We’re all kind of actually waiting to see if he actually leaves,” Fiore said.

Wryals said it will be hard to leave a job he’s become so accustomed to, but there’s a kicker.

“I hate driving,” Wryals said. “I’ve always hated driving. When I’m not working, my wife is driving.”