The story really begins a few decades ago when a handful of students attended North River High School in Brooklyn. As in many small schools, the classmates remained friends over the years and often over a distance of thousands of miles. That was the case with Nona Hunt and her classmate, Wayne Arnold of Louisville, Kentucky.
So when Nona learned from Wayne that he had a serious illness, Nona wanted to do something special for him.
Over the years when Wayne and his wife, Carolyn, attended the Old-timers' picnic in the North River area, Nona said he always sought out a freshly baked blackberry pie. “I thought that was a bigger attraction for him than the picnic,” Nona laughed.
Why not send him a freshly baked blackberry pie?
First she had to do her homework: Who could ship it? How much would it cost? How secure would it be in delivery all those many miles away?
She went to a commercial shipping company first and learned their fee would be well over $100 for shipping alone. Hmmm... that was just too much.
So she visited the Raymond Post Office and talked with Postmaster Neal Emerick. The shipping cost would be about half the cost of the commercial company– still a lot of money. But Nona said, “For a friend, what difference does it make?”
She and Emerick discussed details. He suggested the pie should be sent on a Monday or Tuesday, to ensure it didn't get stuck somewhere over a weekend. He also suggested baking it the morning it would be mailed so it could be cool before shipping. If she could get it to the post office before afternoon pickup, Emerick said he and his staffers Becky Eastham and Teri Newman would ensure packing was done as best it could be to protect the delicate item.
Nona did her part in baking the pie early. “I also made it less juicy so it wouldn't run over in the package,” she said.
She delivered the pie to the post office the afternoon of Sept. 9.
“She already had it well packed,” Emerick said. The post office staff padded it a bit more and wrote on the outside: Be very careful! Blackberry pie. They also put it in an individual bin, again marking it for special handling.
Then the special gift began its journey east.
At 11 a.m. Sept. 11, there was a knock on the door at the Arnold's Louisville home. The postman, Juan Porres, carefully held a box that he presented to the Arnolds. “It's the first time in more than 30 years of delivering the mail that I've ever delivered a blackberry pie!” Porres told the Arnolds.
Eastham had tracked the package on its cross-country journey and alerted Emerick when it reached its destination. Emerick called Nona to report that the delivery had been made.
Wayne and his wife sent Nona photos of the pie – which appeared to have had little, if any, damage in its travels.
“They handled it with kid gloves,” said Nona. “It's amazing.”
Emerick, although pleased with the final result, downplayed the special treatment. “We were touched by her story and the reason for sending it, but try to do that for everyone.”