Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the Juneau Big Band is also known as the Thunder Mountain Band. The band used to be called the Thunder Mountain Band but is now called the Juneau Big Band.
Conrado Ebron, longtime postal carrier in downtown Juneau, couldn’t help but laugh as he talked about his most memorable bear encounter.
It was many years ago, and he was making deliveries on Gastineau Avenue.
“I walked up on the stairs and mama bear stood up,” Ebron recalled. “It was about 30 feet away from me. The cubs were right behind the mama bear, and it was like, ‘Holy cow. OK, I’m gone.’”
Judging on his usual demeanor, he was probably smiling, even as he faced the bear.
Ask most people in the downtown neighborhoods the first thing they think of with Ebron and they’ll probably say his smile. After 33 years of that smile being a downtown staple, Ebron is retiring this Wednesday at the age of 62.
His joyous laugh changes to a bit of an embarrassed one when you call him a celebrity, but he’s become one of the most recognizable people in the neighborhood. He recalled when his sister visited from Boston once and was shocked at how many people knew him by name.
“Man, you can be a politician around here,” she told him. “You know pretty much everyone.”
It’s quite the change from his first visit to Juneau.
Originally from the Philippines, Ebron came from a family of musicians. His father was a professional drummer, and Ebron grew up playing the piano. He ended up playing piano on a cruise ship, which brought him to Juneau. He still plays piano in the Juneau Big Band and said he sees people from his route in the audience from time to time.
As is the case with so many short-term visitors to Juneau, Ebron fell in love — with a woman named Lourdes who was also from the Philippines — and ended up moving to the capital city for good. The two of them got married and now have two sons, who have moved to California and Oregon. Lourdes, a former state employee, is currently retired.
Ebron moved to Juneau in 1982 and in 1985 he took the job with the Postal Service. Within a year, he was assigned to the downtown route.
Since then, all of his trademarks have become as synonymous with the neighborhood as the street names: His all-weather helmet, his laugh, his truck being parked in the same places and of course, his Postal Service cape.
“I’ve got my very popular cape,” Ebron said. “People love my cape.”
Ebron has to work in all of the precipitation that Juneau has to offer — rain, sleet and snowstorms — and said he always wears layers and has all of his equipment in his truck and ready to go. Neighbors have been amazed at his resiliency.
Claire Richardson, a longtime Starr Hill resident, made a post on Facebook earlier this month asking neighbors to write messages for Ebron. The phrases, “daily friend,” “sweet awareness,” “staple in my memory of Starr Hill” and “hero” were all shared.
One neighbor wrote that he moved to a different house and forgot to fill out a mail forwarding slip, but Ebron delivered to the new house anyway because he was paying attention. Another wrote that Ebron was the only one to purchase the lemonade she tried to sell when she was younger.
“He really cared about the people he served every day for more than 30 years,” Richardson said in an email. “He was a constant in our lives. If I was feeling down, just seeing him smile and stop for a moment on his route was uplifting.”
Richardson took the Facebook comments and included them in a birthday card for Ebron a couple weeks ago. She also gave him a Starr Hill mug.
Ebron said the messages from the neighbors were meaningful, and he hopes to still see them around town.
“I really appreciate all their well wishes for me and I’ll miss them all,” Ebron said. “More than half of my life has been doing this job. It’s a very big part of my life, you know.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.