This is Floyd Martin. He's been a mail carrier in Georgia since 1985.
For the last 20 years, Martin's worked the same route in downtown Marietta, and all the people along his route have come to love him — REALLY love him.
“He’s really part of our family," Sarah Bullington, who has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years, told BuzzFeed News. “He’s just really special.”
Martin told BuzzFeed News the best part of his job was all the people he met and befriended over the years.
"They would invite me to dinner. [On] holidays, they would try to make sure I wasn’t alone. They bring gifts to me. If my truck broke down, which it did, they would come out to check on me. They were there for me," he said.
So when the some of the neighbors learned Martin was planning to retire a couple of months ago, they knew they had to send him off in style.
“I knew we had to do something big,” said Becky Poole, who has known Martin for about 25 years. “I had no idea it was going to be this big.”
Around 500 people live on Martin’s route, and the group decided to invite every single one of them to be part of the celebration.
The group asked people to decorate their mailboxes for Martin’s last day and to come for a potluck party.
“I had a little meeting on my porch one night with some ladies and we kind of devised a plan,” said Bullington. “We divided up our neighborhood into zones, and we would walk our dogs and stuff mailboxes with a flyer that told people what we were doing.”
They didn’t know how many people would participate, and on Thursday morning Poole was worried that it would be smaller than she hoped.
“You’re not sure how many people are going to decorate their mailbox. When I was walking early I thought, Participation on our street is not that great,” she said.
But when she drove back down the street two hours later, everyone had decorated their mailboxes.
The group said it was fitting send-off for someone who has touched their lives through generations.
“I don’t remember the moment we first met Floyd,” said Bullington. “But probably the third year we were there he had made enough of an impact on our family that my 3-year-old daughter wanted to dress up as Mr. Floyd for career day at school, and then he came to her birthday party.”
Martin celebrated a number of other birthdays — and births, holidays, sports victories, and graduations — with the people on his route.
“He gave every one of my kids a graduation gift. Whenever one of them graduated, he would put $20 in the mailbox,” said Poole. “It was just him, he loved our kids.”
He also loved the neighborhood’s animals, feeding the cats and bringing treats for the dogs.
“When one of our dogs died,” said Poole, “Floyd cried. He loved that dog.”
Over the years, the neighborhood came to rely on Martin for more than just mail.
“I’ve had a rough few years, and he would just look at me say, ‘Uh-oh, tell Floyd what’s wrong,'” said Poole. “We would stand out there and he would give me that huge Floyd hug and I would be better.”
Martin was especially kind to the elderly people on his route. Poole says that when her mother was suffering from multiple sclerosis, she would fall frequently, and on two occasions Martin was there to help her back up.
Another neighbor, Amanda Seals, now 45, said her grandmother has been singing Martin’s praises since she was in college.
“My grandmother has aged,” said Seals. “She has dementia and her vision is very, very poor, but she knows who Floyd is.”
Seals says that a photograph that the two took together on Thursday “will help her with her long-term memories that she does have.”
Martin told BuzzFeed News four other postal workers helped him complete his route on Thursday.
But even with all the help, he was still late to the party because so many people wanted to talk to him.
When he did finally arrive, “Everybody erupted in cheering,” said Bullington. “Not a dry eye.”
“Brought me to tears,” Martin said. “I’m a crybaby. I show my feelings.”
Bullington estimated that about 350 people of all ages showed up.
“You see this group of sullen teenagers line up when Mr. Floyd walks by. Teenagers!” she said. “They don’t like to do anything, but they all showed up for him last night.”
Martin's story went viral this week after Jennifer Brett, a reporter with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, tweeted about it while following Martin on his last day.
Martin told BuzzFeed News being a mail carrier isn’t easy, but that the relationships he built made it worth it.
“It’s a very hard job. I did not have that postal pace when I first started. It took me a while to get it and I got frustrated,” he recalled. “I called my mama said, ‘I can’t do this.’ She said, ‘Hang in there, baby.'”
“Any time I wanted to quit, I heard those words. So I did, and it all came together. I just went full force, 100%. I said, 'I want to be good at this, I want to be the best.'”
And, for those on his route, in downtown Marietta, that showed.
“We’re just very thankful for his years of public service,” said Seals.
“A lot of people can leave that behind and go into the private sector and have an air-conditioned office and whatnot,” she said. “It takes somebody with a true servant's heart to do what he did for as long as he did, and we’re grateful for that.”