MANVILLE, NJ – No gold watch, just a few “Happy Retirement” balloons from his wife Angie marked the last day of a 31-year career for one of the unsung heroes of the United States Postal Service.

Hillsborough resident Kim Klink retired yesterday after 31 years of delivering and processing mail at the Manville Post Office.

In between processing 56 boxes bound for US troops deployed overseas – each weighing between 25-30 pounds - Klink reflected on his years walking door-to-door delivering mail and the years spent behind the counter handling parcels of all shapes and sizes.

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“When I first started, I used to handle anywhere between 500 and 1,000 parcels a day, but the website has changed all that,” he said, noting that people’s mail habits have changed with the convenience of the Internet and the USPS website.

“I remember Christmas time, there used to be a line out the door all the way to that building next door,” he added, pointing beyond the plate glass windows that look out on to Brooks Boulevard.

When he walked his route, he knew everybody by name and that was no different once he moved indoors behind the counter.

That’s what Klink says he will miss most – the “nice” people who appreciated the care Klink took with their letters and packages. Several regular customers stopped to wish him well, to shake his hand and tell him how much he will be missed.

“I’ll be around, I’ll probably see you at ShopRite Thursday,” he said to one of the “regulars.”

Before coming to work for the postal service in 1984, Klink worked at Johns Manville for 10 years, beginning soon after he left the Army, where he served overseas during the Vietnam War. He was awarded a Purple Heart medal for wounds suffered in battle.

He still carries the scars and ill effects from shrapnel that tore into his leg during a firefight, which ended his 13-month tour after eight months in Vietnam. He served from 1969-71 and was discharged as a Specialist 4th Class.

Klink said he has no regrets about leaving.

“It was time,” he said simply.

In the past five years, Klink has had seven different bosses, all younger than he and all with less experience; in the preceding 26 years, there were four different supervisors.

It will take a few days to get used to a new routine, but Klink already has a “to do” list of jobs around the house.

“My wife wants the whole house painted,” he said with a smile on his face. “Inside and out.”