CHRISTOPHER — A look of intense concentration crosses Marvin Teel’s face as he eyes his target. With a careful underhanded throw, he tosses the rolled newspaper, smiling as it lands with a thud on the porch of his customer’s house.
Satisfied, Teel gets back on his Schwinn bicycle and returns to his three-mile newspaper route that zigzags through the streets of Christopher — a route the soon-to-be 90-year-old has taken since 2001 for The Benton Evening News.
Teel, who will celebrate his 90th birthday Tuesday, delivers 40 newspapers, five days a week for the local newspaper, putting him in contention, he said, for the title of “World’s Oldest Paperboy.”
That title is thought to be held by a 93-year-old man in Winters, Calif., but Teel thinks he’s got the rival carrier beat.
“He works for a weekly newspaper so he only delivers once a week. I deliver five days a week,” Teel said.
And deliver he does, whether rain, sleet, snow or dark of night shall fall. Making deliveries despite the elements is a skill he honed in his 45 years as a rural mail carrier.
“I delivered on my bike all last summer, through that terrible heat,” he said on a recent hot and humid day. “The only times I don’t do the route on my bike are when it snows or ices. I’ll drive instead,” he said.
Teel, who also did TV repair and antenna work, decided to get a route when he tired of retirement.
“I needed something to do. I’ve always worked. I feel guilty just sitting around all the time.” he said. “I enjoy the exercise.”
He also enjoys exchanging pleasantries with his customers.
“I like to visit with the people,” he said. “We talk about all the important things, like ‘What’s it going to do today? Rain?’”
His customers appreciate him.
“He’s been a very good paperboy,” Jean Kretz said. “He’s always puts it right where I can get it and it’s always out of the rain.”
Kretz said she could set a watch by Teel.
“He’s a prompt, reliable guy. If he’s late, we know something is wrong,” she said.
Customer Evelyn Hammonds said she has known Teel for about 40 years.
“We can depend on him,” she said. “He’s the best paperboy we’ve ever had.”
The World War II veteran gets an assist from his wife Marilyn when the newspaper bundle is dropped at his house each weekday. She helps him roll the newspapers he loads into the baskets on the front and back of his bike.
The couple has been married for “too long to remember,” Marilyn Teel said, and she doesn’t mind the hour-and-a-half to two-hours he spends away from home each weekday delivering his newspapers.
“He loves to do his route. He makes money doing it and it gets him out of my hair,” she laughed.
Teel, a frequent contributor to The Southern Illinoisan’s letters to the editor section, has no plans to retire from his route.
“Oh, no. Retirement wasn’t for me,” he said. “I’ll do this as long as I’m able.”
On Twitter: @beckymalkovich