Meet St. John’s senior carrier

Telegram route helps 85-year-old fight arthritis

Published on January 31, 2012
Eileen Hynes, 85, of St. John’s delivers The Telegram last Wednesday with her grandson, Michael Baird, 12, a Grade 7 student at Macdonald Drive Junior High School. The retired mother of five said she enjoys the walk six days a week to help her combat her arthritis and a lung condition. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/TheTelegram

Eileen Hynes of St. John’s was going about her typical daily business one day near Linden Court Condominiums when she noticed a man looking at her somewhat quizzically.

“He saw me with the papers, so I looked at him and said, ‘Yeah, I’m 85, and I finally have a paper route,’” said Hynes, seated inside her cosy apartment on Pine Bud Avenue. “I don’t know whether he believed me or not.”

Indeed, Hynes may not look like your average newspaper carrier, most of whom are better acquainted with iPods and Harry Potter than pre-Confederation Newfoundland, but she’s getting plenty out of her job.

The retired mother of five has taken a unique approach to combating the effects of arthritis by sharing a neighbourhood Telegram paper route with her grandson, Michael Baird.

“I like being outdoors, but I can’t just walk,” said Hynes, who prefers to have a purpose to her strolls. She is also the chatty sort, willing to talk to anyone she sees while out on her route.

Six days a week, Hynes puts on her coat and shoes to deliver 18 of the 25 papers to residents of several apartments located near Churchill Square. The seven customers with steps leading to their front doors are handled by Baird after he finishes classes for the day at MacDonald Drive Junior High, though if she feels up to it, Hynes often looks after those customers as well. Such was the case this past Tuesday.

“Mikey was off the hook totally,” she said.

Hynes is afflicted with a lung condition as well as arthritis. One year ago, after her doctor recommended she walk more to help with the latter condition, Hynes started delivering a few of her grandson’s papers.

Though she accepts tips from her customers, all the money goes back to Michael — a good deal for the 12-year-old.

“We just had a little discussion on that coming down,” laughed Hynes. “He’s wondering if I should be paying him for it for giving me the opportunity because of the cardiovascular (work).”

Additionally, Hynes said her share of the route benefits her grandson’s busy schedule. Outside of his regular schoolwork, the Grade 7 student plays basketball, volleyball, hockey and soccer.

Hynes has always been one to keep herself occupied. She was a homemaker for many years with her five children, but once her youngest child turned five years old, Hynes began working. Since her retirement, she has consistently pushed herself to do things to keep herself from growing complacent.

“If I stop doing something today, next week I’ll stop doing something else, and the next thing you know I’m doing nothing. So I figure the more you do, the better you are. You have to make yourself get on with it. That’s my basic approach to retirement.”

Along with the paper route, Hynes is an avid gardener, making use of her green thumb in the yards surrounding the condominium she lives in.

Unlike most people in the city, Hynes actually enjoys shovelling snow, though she was forced to give that up last year — she admits to doing occasional touchups once others are finished with the job outside her building.

Elizabeth Hillman, a retired university professor, is one of Hynes’ customers.

“I watch her do it in the rain, sunshine, snow, slush, and everything,” said Hillman, who also raved about Hynes’ gardening skills. “She’s always full of fun.”

Foremost among her supporters has been the family of Hynes’ daughter Susan Baird, Michael’s mother. They live only a couple of blocks away from Hynes.

“Susan’s family has saved my sanity,” said Hynes. “Having these little chores to do for the kids makes me feel like I’m needed, which is important.”

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