After 29 years of UPS deliveries, Larry Pokornowski retires
By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN After 29 years of delivering packages five of them in Cokato Larry Pokornowski has retired from the United Parcel Service (UPS).
“I have an extra bounce in my step today,” said Pokornowski Wednesday his last day of delivery.
It was the Christmas season of 1984-85 when Pokornowski started delivering part-time for UPS, based in Glencoe.
He had just been laid off from Mid-America Dairymen in Winsted after the government had a cattle buyout to decrease milk production.
“At that time, there were 100 people applying for the job,” he said. The job was only three hours a day.
“I got lucky,” he said.
In February, and after he had been laid off from the holiday season, Pokornowski got the call for a fulltime position with UPS.
Because it had been so slow, it took three months to complete his 30-day probationary period, he noted, adding that he would only be called in to train when there was work available. He was a utility driver for the first six years, filling in for other full-time drivers.
“I knew 20 different routes,” he said.
After he hit those 30 days, however, Pokornowski has been working every day since. He only missed one day in those 29 years due to illness.
He recalled a tragic experience as a driver early on, when he was hit by a drunk driver and flipped in the ditch. He escaped with only minor scratches.
After six years as a fill-in, Pokornowski got his own route in Belle Plaine, where he remained for the next 17 years.
He has a lot of fond memories from there, including the time when he was invited to stop by the home of one of his deliveries for pie and ice cream to celebrate her 90th birthday.
“We’re still exchanging Christmas cards,” he said. He is planning a visit to Belle Plaine in the near future to see her and some of the other people he misses from his route there.
Five years ago, he had the opportunity to work the Cokato route after the driver, Bryan Thiele, retired.
“I wanted to finish out my career here in town,” he said, adding that it was a joy coming here.
Because he lives in rural Cokato, Pokornowski knew many people in the area, which helped with the deliveries. “Everybody is so friendly,” he said.
“My thoughts coming in to Cokato was, ‘I’m going to give them the best service they’ve ever had,’ and I hope I’ve done that,” he said.
As a driver, weather can undoubtedly be a challenge from time to time.
He remembers getting stuck in the snow and people stopping to help him out.
There were also a few dogs that didn’t like him, he noted, making his job a bit hairy at times.
On average, Pokornowski would make 100 stops and average 150 miles a day.
This Christmas season, “was absolutely brutal,” he said, with the number of packages from online shoppers.
“This year was the first time I worked until 11-o’clock at night,” he said.
“We were ringing bells up until 10-o’clock at night,” he said. “If the lights were out, you’d leave the package on the front step.”
On Christmas Eve, Pokornowski was ringing bells as people were heading off to their church service. “I got home about 8:30 p.m.,” he commented.
In addition to his delivery responsibilities, Pokornowski has also been the union steward for the past 20 years, representing his fellow union workers.
“He’s been a great liaison between management and the union,” said his supervisor, Steve Noble.
“He’s been just a great employee, and we’re going to miss him,” Noble said, adding “he takes care of his customers.”
Jason Mumford-Sohns, the shipping coordinator for Forward Technology, agrees.
“Larry’s a super nice guy,” he said.
John Rangel, the shipping and receiving supervisor for Airtex, said Pokornowski is always optimistic, even in bad weather. “He is always in a good mood always cheerful and willing to do anything extra,” Rangel commented.
In October 2006, Pokornowski’s customers nominated him for the Minnesota Vikings UPS Driver of the Month, which was announced on KFAN radio.
For him, that was definitely a highlight of his career.
As far as plans for his retirement, there are a lot of things he would like to do, including more ice fishing, golfing, and community involvement.
He is particularly looking forward to not having a set schedule, and being home to enjoy the after-school activities of his 16 grandchildren. As a driver, Pokornowski wouldn’t get home until after 6:30 p.m. and would miss many of the games and events.
“I want to be there for them,” he said referring to his grandchildren.
Because he lives in the community in which he’s served for the past five years, Pokornowski said he’s still going to be able to see those faces around town.
“I do want to thank everyone from the community for being so kind,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better place to finish my career.”