Officially, Arthur Matillano was the Evanston Post Office Route 88 letter carrier. But to the people on that route, as one of them put it, “he had a way of making us feel special.”

Matillano was killed in a car accident on June 23, on his way home to Buffalo Grove. Today, more than 100 of Matillano’s route 88 customers, along with members of his family, honored the letter carrier with a memorial plaque installed along the route he walked for 15 years.

The plaque, located on a walkway between Hamlin Avenue and Avers Avenue in Skokie, says “Thank you for your dedicated service to our neighborhood. Your easy smile, infectious laugh, and kindness will be remembered by all.”

Neighbors contributed $1,000 to have the plaque made and attached to a 950-pound rock. Clearly, they felt the 62-year old Matillano was more than just a guy who dropped off the mail.

He also interacted with everyone, asking how they were doing, trying to cheer them up if they were sad and smiling with them when they were happy. “Art knew our kids’ names, our dogs’ names, and our kids’ dogs names,” said Chava Alpert, who helped organize the memorial effort.

Matillano did not just bring bills, catalogs and birthday cards, Alpert said, in remarks to the crowd. “He also delivered hopes, smiles and dreams.”

Matillano worked for the Postal Service for 32 years. His niece, Ellen Kapoor, said her uncle “always showed up in his uniform” when he stopped by for family events. “I didn’t know the depth of love the community had for him until he passed away,” she added.

Matillano’s younger brother Lucien said Art was a “hard working individual, very family oriented.” He had four children.

Rowena Matillano greets neighbors at the ceremony.

Matillano’s widow Rowena said it was “wonderful,” that so many people were on hand. As she looked at the plaque, tears came to her eyes, as she said “There’s his name. That is so nice.”

In an era of email, and now, of Zoom, the neighbors at today’s memorial ceremony stressed the importance of true personal interaction. Nancy Bellew said this about Matillano, and what he meant to the folks on route 88: “We all felt he was my mailman. We were his and he was ours. He was a very special person.”

(Video courtesy of Michelle Steele.)

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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