Getting to Know the Heart of… Oscar Lopez
Reliable, dedicated, and good natured, Oscar has worked over 20 years for the United States Postal Service in Glencoe, currently delivering mail to 244 residences while regularly spotting coyotes, deer, chipmunks, and dogs on his route – all without incident.
By: Annice Moses, Community Relations Forum Member
I see Oscar every day, and you probably do too – except Sundays of course. He drives the streets and walks the sidewalks of Glencoe with a purpose in his step and mail in his hand, (but not while he’s driving), ever smiling, always friendly, calling out greetings and salutations to all the neighbors. Oscar is eager to be interviewed despite being busy juggling work, his wife, and children, four water turtles and a tortoise named Laredo (after a town in Texas). When we finally meet up on one of Oscar’s precious days off to chat about everything from his favorite meal to his celebrity crush, I thank him with a Dunkin’ Donuts vanilla long john and a medium decaf coffee, three sugars, two creams.
Born in Pachuca in Mexico, Oscar, his parents and his two brothers all lived together until he was five years old. In 1975, Oscar’s dad moved to the United States, where he worked three jobs and eventually saved enough money to bring his wife and children to Chicago in 1980. Oscar hit the ground running having to learn English beginning in first grade. Wanting success for his son, Oscar’s dad bought him headphones and a cassette tape recorder so Oscar could record himself reading books aloud in English. Oscar would then listen back and memorize as his words formed sentences. His Mom was a whiz with numbers and helped him with math. Oscar worked extremely hard and enrolled in summer school every year to keep up his grades and language skills. Dedicating so much time and effort to learning English, Oscar lost his ability to speak Spanish. This greatly affected Oscar’s capacity to communicate with his family – particularly his mom. It didn’t help that his teachers told his parents not to speak in their heritage language at home. Despite the loss of a shared language, Mexican culture bridged the gap for his family through a love of church, food and parties.
Oscar, his mother, and brothers became U.S. citizens when Oscar was 13 years old. He vividly remembers the day where he had to write the name of the sitting President of the United States, list the colors of the American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Oscar also remembers the celebratory dinner where his family ate Edwardo’s pizza (his dad’s favorite) and planned a visit back to Mexico to reunite with family they hadn’t seen in 10 years.
After attending Lincoln Park High School, Oscar received his college degree in data entry and began working for the Cook County Sheriff’s Department. His duties ranged from entering names, identification numbers and urine drop results of people on parole. The job was intense. Oscar wasn’t doing this work in the anonymity of a four-walled, closed-door office. While learning about intense subjects - everything about drugs and gang tattoos, for example - Oscar was clickity-clacking away on his computer in one big common space. Everyone knew Oscar was “the guy” documenting the results of their drug test, so every night after work, he was escorted by security to his car. After five years, Oscar needed a change. His job limited his social life because when he went out for fun, he’d often run into parolees – the very opposite of fun.
In 2001, after seeing an ad for various open positions at the Glencoe Post Office, Oscar filled out an application and passed both a written and physical exam. He was initially offered a clerk position selling stamps, but Oscar had spent enough time sitting behind a desk. He wanted a change of scenery and some fresh air, so he pursued a mail carrier position. Within the first couple of weeks, Oscar developed a tremendous amount of respect for the job. It was hard work. His first route covered all of Glencoe, pedal to the metal training in all areas. After 10 years of mail carrying for constantly varied routes, he was offered the position of assistant supervisor. Seven years in, Oscar missed the fresh air and requested his old job back, returning to the demands of a rotation through all 14 routes. Finally, in 2019, Oscar received a permanent assignment – Route #6.
When Oscar made his professional job shift, freshness wasn't the only thing floating in the air -- there was also love. Oscar had moved into a two flat with his brothers. One brother lived above with his wife, while Oscar and his other brother lived below. When his sister in-law’s cousin came to visit on a tourist visa from Mexico, Oscar was instantly smitten. She didn’t speak any English and Oscar spoke very little Spanish -- but he tells me that was half the fun.
Beyond re-teaching him Spanish, Oscar credits her with schooling him on how to dress, (skinny jeans, tucked in shirts and nice shoes) and he didn’t mind that she insisted he cut his hair if she was going to be his girlfriend. He showed her around Chicago – Little Village, Chinatown, and even got a haircut! After two years of dating, they moved in together, and the rest is history – or rather, their future. Now married 13 years, Oscar and his wife are raising two bilingual children: a 17-year-old daughter who wants to study architecture, and a 15-year-old son who is interested in accounting (he likes numbers like his grandma.)
Along with garnering much satisfaction and joy from his family and work, Oscar is quite the renaissance man finding various outlets of expression though his love of realistic drawing, playing basketball, working on cars, (a skill he learned from his mechanic father), riding his bike to Lake Arlington and helping his children in any way he can.
Oh, and if Oscar could only have one meal for the rest of his life it would a beloved dish from his childhood, Milanesa de Res, (AKA breaded steak) and before he married his wife, he had a huge celebrity crush on Selma Hayek.
Do you know someone in Glencoe we should know? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org