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On Island Profile: Al Smith

May 19, 2005 – Al Smith is a smiling face at the Cruz Bay Post Office. On the job since 1987, he hands out parcels from the package trailer, looks for lost mail, calls you up when he finds it and in short, does myriad other tasks at this small facility.
"I don't let anything bother me," he said.
That's a great gift at a post office where the stresses are huge. The post office is too small for the number of customers that use it; the mail sometimes gets lost somewhere in the U.S. Postal Service system; and customers can get very cranky when it doesn't arrive.
"He goes out of the way everyday to make sure you feel good," customer Kathy Demar said.
Smith, 44, has an official title – it's window distribution clerk – but he most often works behind the scenes. He said he forwards mail, unloads the mail truck, puts the first-class mail in the mail boxes and, of course, works the package trailer, where he celebrates with his customers when their long-awaited packages arrive.
Lifting packages has put him out on medical leave. In February, Smith was picking up a heavy package that had opened at the bottom. When he went to grab the contents, he hurt his back.
"Five disks are bulging, and there's a bone out of place," he said.
He's been getting therapy, and expects to be back on the job in June.
Meanwhile, he's had to give up on Big Al's Woodworking, but he expects to take up crafting clocks once he's back in shape.
Smith got into woodworking when he was a student at Julius E. Sprauve School. After attending Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, he started delivering mail for the post office. It wasn't until the late 1990s that he went back to honing a skill he enjoyed as a child.
Mario Benjamin was building a vanity for Smith's mother, Jewel Powell. When he invited Smith in for a look, he decided to give woodworking another try. He made a few assorted pieces for his mother to sell at the Coral Bay Labor Day festivities, but when he discovered clocks, he was hooked.
Since then, he's turned them out at his tiny shop adjacent to his Coral Bay house, using wood he buys at Paradise Lumber and clock parts mail ordered and brought back from Hong Kong.
He exhibits and sells at craft shows and local fairs.
Smith is taking it easy right now because of his back problems, so he has lots of time to spend with his wife of three years, Wendy.
He's anxious to get back to work putting St. John residents together with their mail
"I'm hoping to stay until I retire," he said.

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