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  • Emory Townsend, 93, stops for a ...

    Gabriel Scarlett, The Denver Post

    Emory Townsend, 93, stops for a lunch break with his dog Molly while delivering the mail on June 20, 2017 on his route from the Somerset, Colo., post office. After 60 years of delivering mail and many other jobs, Townsend says that it is more of a vacation than a job.

  • Emory Townsend, 93, delivers the mail ...

    Gabriel Scarlett, The Denver Post

    Emory Townsend, 93, delivers the mail to a remote mailbox on June 20, 2017 on his route from the Somerset, Colo., post office. After 60 years of delivering mail and many other jobs, Townsend says that it is more of a vacation than a job.

  • Emory Townsend, 93, loads a mailbox ...

    Gabriel Scarlett, The Denver Post

    Emory Townsend, 93, loads a mailbox on June 20, 2017 on his route from the Somerset, Colo., post office. After 60 years of delivering mail and many other jobs, Townsend says that it is more of a vacation than a job.

  • Emory Townsend, 93, stops for a ...

    Gabriel Scarlett, The Denver Post

    Emory Townsend, 93, stops for a break with his dog Molly while delivering the mail on June 20, 2017 on his route from the Somerset, Colo., post office. After 60 years of delivering mail and many other jobs, Townsend says that it is more of a vacation than a job.

  • Emory Townsend, 93, sorts the mail ...

    Gabriel Scarlett, The Denver Post

    Emory Townsend, 93, sorts the mail for delivery on June 20, 2017 on his route from the Somerset, Colo., post office. After 60 years of delivering mail and many other jobs, Townsend says that it is more of a vacation than a job.

  • Emory Townsend, 93, sorts the mail ...

    Gabriel Scarlett, The Denver Post

    Emory Townsend, 93, sorts the mail for delivery on June 20, 2017 on his route from the Somerset, Colo., post office. After 60 years of delivering mail and many other jobs, Townsend says that it is more of a vacation than a job.

  • Emory Townsend, 93, loads his delivery ...

    Gabriel Scarlett, The Denver Post

    Emory Townsend, 93, loads his delivery vehicle with the mail on June 20, 2017 for his route from the Somerset, Colo., post office. After 60 years of delivering mail and many other jobs, Townsend says that it is more of a vacation than a job.

  • Emory Townsend, 93, stops for a ...

    Gabriel Scarlett, The Denver Post

    Emory Townsend, 93, stops for a break while delivering the mail on June 20, 2017 on his route from the Somerset, Colo., post office. After 60 years of delivering mail and many other jobs, Townsend says that it is more of a vacation than a job.

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When Molly galloped through the headlights in the driveway, Patricia Shaffer knew something was wrong. The spaniel didn’t jump into her car but turned and ran back to the dark house.

There in the backyard, collapsed by the woodsplitter and the backhoe, was Schaffer’s dad, Emory Townsend. He was 94.

“I kept saying ‘Oh no, no, come back,” Shaffer said.

They had plans to visit his great-great grandchildren — twins, a boy named for Emory and girl named for Beebe, his wife of 72 years — in Parker for Christmas. The family had just bought him a recording device so he could capture his vibrant stories spanning more than 80 years in the North Fork Valley, more than 60 of which he spent delivering mail to rural outposts.

So many stories, recalled so vividly. The three-week drive with his family from their dust-ravaged farm on the plains to Paonia in the early 1930s, eating eggs laid by chickens strapped to the side of their homemade camper. Visiting Hiroshima mere weeks after the U.S. leveled the Japanese city with an atomic bomb. Delivering mail and riding horses in the shadow of the jagged Ragged Mountains. Raising kids and adventuring with his beloved Beebe, who died two years ago in August.

Emory Townsend, 93, sorts the mail ...
Gabriel Scarlett, The Denver Post
Emory Townsend, 93, sorts the mail for delivery on June 20, 2017 on his route from the Somerset, Colo., post office. After 60 years of delivering mail and many other jobs, Townsend says that it is more of a vacation than a job.

And the stories never stopped. Shaffer — one of three children, 12 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren surviving their patriarch — regularly heard new memories, each recalled with remarkable clarity. Driving home from a doctor visit in early November, Townsend noted that Molly was probably the smartest dog he’d ever had.

“He started talking about all his dogs. His first dog and ‘Then we got this dog that killed rattlesnakes and we just called him Rattlesnake Jack,’” Shaffer said. “Those are the stories that I was looking forward to.”

Another: He was delivering soil for Paonia’s Pan American Seed Co., which in the 1940s employed most of the town, and, around a blind turn, a speeding truck collided with him, knocking his truck into a canal. Townsend was under water and stuck. The other driver was knocked out. Another driver happened upon the scene and jumped in the canal and freed Townsend.

“I found an old news clipping of that a couple days ago,” Shaffer said.

The Denver Post visited with Townsend in June, a few months before his 94th birthday. He was delivering mail, just as he did twice a week for the last 60 years. Molly rode on his lap. He stopped every so often to fill a mailbox and gaze up at the Ragged Mountains, a moment that spurred a story. After the article, readers flooded him with letters and packages sent to his post office.

A week before he died splitting wood on Nov. 6, he had purchased a thank-you card for one Denver Post reader who had mailed him a package with socks, warm clothes and a new jacket. The reader, Shaffer said, called it “his un-birthday gift.”

“I asked him if he knew what an ‘un-birthday’ was and he said only a woman celebrates an un-birthday,” Shaffer said. “He was so impressed with the reactions he got to that story.”

The family joked with Townsend about the stories he would tell when he was 100 and still delivering the mail. In recent winters, he started teaching his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids how to snowmobile. One day they were out on a snowy field when he told them “anywhere you can go, I can go higher,” Shaffer said.

“He was just my dad, but I’m learning what he was to people in this valley and people all over,” she said. “He had a very interesting life and I think that’s just because he never quit living.”

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