The Glen Burnie Post Office on Ritchie Highway is a cold mass of bricks and glass on the outside, making it easy to imagine an hushed interior of overbearing officiousness.
But for the past 30 years, Frank Thomasson has been at the entrance door, offering everyone who ventures inside a contagious smile, a warm greeting and a ready laugh.
Hired as a custodian, Thomasson did more than clean the lobby and repair the building. He tailored his job to include greeting every customer in the lobby and making their day just a little brighter.
Thomasson never saw anything odd about the extension of his job duties. "I was just being myself. If you treat the customers right, they will come back," said the lean, bespectacled 63 year-old with the gentle features. "I opened the lobby a lot in the morning, and if I saw someone in a bad mood, I tried to put them in a good mood."
Thomasson retired three weeks ago as head of the post office's three-man custodian team. For three decades, he had distributed his doses of happiness every morning, earning him the nickname "Little Mayor of Glen Burnie."
Outlasting three postmasters, Thomasson was a welcome feature as neighbors and business people stopped at the post office to check their boxes.
Amid the coming and going of people and years, he maintained his "home style," said John Iorio, a resident of Glen Burnie who frequents the post office. "Frank's an old-timer who's made a bright day out of a gloomy day for so many. Now it's a lost art, that person-to-person contact."
Thomasson easily remembers how his rapport with the community began. "It was December 29, 1962," he said with his voice on the edge of a laugh -- as always. "My first day on the job, and I took it as it came. If they told me to move the building, I would try."
His "it's-best-to-know-how-you-can-help-out" attitude kept him busy as he set about maintaining the 26,000-square-foot facility. Thomasson swept the floor, cut the grass, did metalwork and woodwork and handled the maintenance of more than 100 blue mailboxes that dot the 21060 and 21061 ZIP codes.
But that was only at the post office. He also simultaneously held jobs as a gas station attendant and a school bus driver -- neither of which affected his main job as head custodian.
William Pratesi, Glen Burnie postmaster for the past nine years, described Thomasson as dedicated. "Frank is definitely missed. He was always here when we needed him and he was a very good employee," he said.
Thomasson, a life-long resident of Ferndale, said he loved his job because it kept him in touch with the people.
"I saw everyone and anyone," he said. "Some people I've known all my life would come in, I would just run into everybody."
But, he added, "after 30 years at one place, and you see a lot of your old friends that you started work with and they're retiring, it makes you think."
Now Thomasson has joined his wife, Shirley, in retirement. He plans to spend his time doing the things he loves: gardening, fishing and crabbing.
"But first I have about six months of housework to do," he says with a chuckle.
Added Shirley, who retired six years ago after 27 years with Montgomery Ward, "Frank's had a great career with the post office. He's worked hard and earned every cent."