Nashua couple delivers Hollis Brookline publication

Retirement is a milestone many people look forward to their entire life. After decades of work, most use their golden years to travel, spend time with family, delve into long-neglected hobbies or to just relax and enjoy the fruits of so many years of labor.

For one local couple, though, that’s not the case, as they have dedicated themselves to what some would call a monumental task – to deliver thousands of newspapers each week.

Bob Smith, 86, and his wife, Erlinda Smith, 75, residents of Nashua, are among those who defy the norm and continue to work, not out of need, but out of a love for meeting new people, seeing new places and spending time together. The couple is independent contractors for The Telegraph, delivering the Hollis Brookline Sunday Select.

Bob drives, Erlinda assists, and off they go to deliver thousands of newspapers, complete with a stack of sales fliers and coupons, to area residents.

“We individually bag and tie the tops of 5,800 papers each week,” Bob said. “We do around 350 miles a week.”

Bob is a veteran who was an Army medic in the Korean War, a photo engraving apprentice at the Columbus Citizen newspaper in Ohio and now is retired from a long career in the automotive industry. He met Erlinda on travels to the Philippines. They married 24 years ago. She is “Nana” to the widower’s two grown sons, two grown grandchildren that include a son in the Navy and a great-grandchild. The couple embraces a joy in doing things together. Driving and traveling are favorite activities.

“We read an ad that The Telegraph was looking for delivery people,” Bob said. “We missed the daily contact with people and, at our age, there are not many job opportunities for something we could do together.”

Bob and Erlinda were Hollis residents for 12 years and relocated to Florida around three years ago. They came back to the area to be closer to family, although Bob is pleased they have “retired twice” to the Philippines and will return someday to Erlinda’s native land.

“We enjoy delivering the papers, as you meet nice people and we see places we never knew existed in our community,” Bob said. “It works for us.”

Erlinda said she and Bob are early risers. The job of delivering the newspapers is one that can be done early in the day and “at our own pace.”

“It’s nice to be married, but it’s good to be a friend,” Erlinda said. “There’s communication, and this job helps us get out and be together, plus the extra money is nice.”

Shawn Paulus, circulation director at The Telegraph, said that when he interviewed the couple – and sampled some of Erlinda’s zucchini bread – he realized they were a unique couple with an interesting life story. He noted that they seemed to have a nurturing and loving connection with each other as well as with others.

“Erlinda’s baking skills are on point,” Paulus said. “It’s easy to see how these two form a great team.”

Meanwhile, the Smith’s shiny red Toyota is bulging with the Hollis Brookline Sunday Selects, bagged in bundles in the back seat and in the trunk. An open bundle at Erlinda’s feet is tapped for the next home on their extensive route list. A tray of her freshly baked banana bread awaits the couple’s return from their paper route.

“This is good to do,” Erlinda said. “If somebody asks what I enjoy, I tell them it’s the independence.”

Bob and Erlinda added that delivery associates should be prepared to work long hours but “on your own schedule.” The mission for Bob and Erlinda Smith is ended when the last paper goes to its home. The travel that they love is now mostly done in the Hollis and Brookline area because of their delivery route commitment, but they admit that other horizons – and the Philippines – beckon.

“We’ve driven back and forth six times to Florida and traveled to Ohio, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Toronto and Boston,” Bob said. “Pack up and go, that’s our motto.”

“We stop at every Dunkin’ Donuts,” Erlinda added. “There’s one in the Philippines.”