A Day In The Life: Matt LoreyJanuary 24, 2020
Click on the photo above to experience the story with easy-to-read text and additional photos.
Story by Allen Laman
Photos by Marlena Sloss
As a rainy morning turned to afternoon on a Wednesday in January, Matt Lorey slid open the door of his mail truck, grabbed his carrier bags and hoofed up the driveway of a home on Jasper’s south side.
Many of Matt’s interactions as a city mailman last just a few seconds. He’ll offer a quick joke, flash his disarming smile, and leave with a laugh — a guffaw so deep it sounds like it’s coming straight from his core.
At this particular house, though, Matt stops for a while longer. He rings the doorbell and walks in on his own. Shirley Bartley waits eagerly for him today, just as she does every day.
Matt brings the 77-year-old woman’s mail inside to save her a trip to the street. Bartley offers him a snack, and the two rib on each other like old friends. But there is a deeper meaning to this good-natured fun.
Bartley said she couldn’t make it without him.
“If he wouldn’t come every day, I would lose my mind,” she said. “I get lonely ... he is a wonderful, wonderful fella.”
Matt’s uniform says he’s a United States Postal Service carrier. Once it’s on, it won’t come off until he’s ready to turn in for the night. But there’s more to Matt than mail.
He is a single father to three kids. A motivated gym rat. A man who prioritizes honesty and education, and finds value in the lighter side of life, too, using his satirical sense of humor to make the most of interactions.
The 43-year-old Jasper man wakes up at 6 a.m., about six hours after he hits the hay. Breakfast includes two bowls of cereal and an omelet. It’s a hearty, protein-heavy spread that will get him through his first six hours of flipping mailboxes open and coasting through neighborhoods.
Spend a day with him, though, and you begin to understand that his life is guided by more than addresses. It is directed by his children.
Their names are Monica, Isaac and Isabelle, and they funnel into the kitchen around 6:30 a.m. as they prepare for class.
Their own artistic creations surround them in their home’s kitchen and family room. Paintings, drawings and other pieces of art hang from the walls and are displayed on shelves and ledges across their house, alongside school pictures and family photos.
As Dad eats and finishes getting ready, Isabelle tells how Dad loves to talk, and catching up with friends at Walmart can make trips to the store interesting.
“I like that he’s funny,” said Isaac, who recognizes that humor in himself, too. “He can joke around sometimes.”
Around 7 a.m., the Loreys are loaded up in the family minivan and are off to their respective schools. (Twins Monica and Isaac are seventh-graders at Holy Trinity Catholic School, while Isabelle is in 10th grade at Jasper High School.) As they exit, Dad tells them that he loves them.
Meanwhile, the Jasper Post Office is already alive. Employees separate mail and packages before the carriers arrive and organize it. After clocking in, Matt and the others sort their letters and packages and advertisements using a system at their standing desks.
Matt’s supervisor, Mark Schaefer, says Matt is dedicated to his job. He knows when people move and where they move. He’s an efficient worker, and though he radiates playfulness, he does his job well.
When asked what it’s like to work with Matt, fellow city mailman Shane Nicholson said it’s “not boring,” adding that Matt has a “different view of life” because he is a father.
Alex Boehman, another local carrier, said the post office employees are like a family. Inside that nucleus, Matt is the sarcastic jokester, the guy who will poke fun at you, but just as quickly turn it back on himself to show he’s not serious.
Still, being a carrier isn’t all laughs. It’s also an extremely demanding job. The work is physically challenging in the miles and miles that some carriers walk each day, in all kinds of weather, with pounds of correspondence dangling from their bodies. And it’s mentally taxing in the long lists of names and addresses that need to be memorized to ensure proper sorting and mail conveyance.
“It’s kind of like a lifestyle, almost,” Schaefer said. “You’ve gotta almost live and breathe the post office.”
The mail industry has been Matt’s lifeblood for just over 20 years. The Jasper native got his start in South Bend in 1999, and moved back to his hometown eight years later.
He’s worked each of Jasper’s six city mail routes since then. Maybe he was your mailman at some point. You’d recognize him by his slim, athletic frame; bald head and infectious smile.
Now, his route is comprised of businesses and homes in the area of Holy Family Catholic Church and South U.S. 231. It involves less walking than most of the city routes — only about 4 miles a day — and Matt is usually able to knock it out in just under seven hours.
Today, like every day, he starts at 9 a.m. on the south side of the Square, dropping off packages and letters to places like Matrix Integration, Gary’s Barber Shop and Jasper Group. This is called a relay, an on-foot spree of deliveries in which each step is calculated, each twist and turn is performed with precision and purpose.
Right off the bat, he’s upbeat and into it, opening and closing doors as a jolt of energy in a sleepy world. He chats with some folks when he passes their mail off to them — speaking to a receptionist about her retirement plans, for example — while keeping it short with others.
He hits houses next. The first row sits on Fifth Street, and he snakes around his route from there. Whether driving or walking, this process repeats for hours. But Matt never feels like his days drag on.
“I’m not done until I get to the end of the route,” he said. “So, you’re constantly kind of moving. It’s not like when you’re sitting behind a desk, or sometimes [when] you look up at the clock and it feels like it’s barely moving.”
He has a friendly personality, and being outgoing at work is especially important to him. He knows that when his customers think of the post office, they think of him. He is a face of an operation that he wants to succeed, and he doesn’t take that responsibility lightly.
After work and school, the family members congregate back in their kitchen and living room. They work on homework, chat about their days and prepare for the night ahead. Though the Loreys don’t regularly sit down and share a meal together due to their busy schedules, they often share company like this.
The kids still see and spend time with their mom, Emily Phillips of Noblesville, but they live with their dad. Matt — who has had custody of the kids since 2013 — explained that being a single father can be difficult at times. He probably gets less sleep than he did when he was married, and he gets behind on things like laundry more than he used to.
But when they’re away from the house, Matt notices how quiet it is. He would much rather be a single parent than the dad who wasn’t there. “I wouldn’t trade it,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine not having them.”
He strives to fill multiple emotional roles — to be comforting by telling them he loves them before they hang up the phone, while also instilling in them the value of a college education and the importance of telling the truth.
“I’m sure being a single parent is more challenging, I think, than not,” Matt said. “But that’s what I’ve done for the last six years. Just like delivering in the rain, you get used to it.”
Just before 7 p.m., Matt and Isaac head off to Destination Imagination practice at Holy Trinity. Matt co-coaches his son’s improvisational team, and for an hour and a half, the kids practice how they’d act out goofy performances that could be lofted at them during competitions.
Heidi Rasche also coaches the team. She said the boys on the team look up to Matt.
“They know that when Matt gets serious, it’s serious time,” she said.
Matt ends his day at B&B Fitness, doing squats, leg curls and other exercises for an hour — all in his post office uniform — before calling it quits. Despite having an active job, working out and eating healthy are big priorities in his life. And they aren’t just personal. He plans on being part of his kids’ lives for a long time, and he wants to be able to play with his grandchildren one day.
Back home, Matt has a folder packed with funny memories of his kids that he’s jotted down on pieces of paper over the years. Things that Isabelle, Isaac and Monica have said or done that have made him laugh or smile. Small moments that made him happy they were with him. Some of them inspired the letters written by Matt for this story.
Matt has kept and protected those papers, like letters he never wanted to lose.
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