'Purple Mail Lady' who went beyond appointed rounds is honored

June 03, 1994|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Just two days before she was scheduled to lead the annual Savage Fest parade through the historic mill town, the "Purple Mail Lady" was thanked yesterday for her kindness to residents as a mail carrier for 18 years.

Jan Arnold earned the nickname because of her passion for the color. She wears only purple clothing, shoes and jewelry, her eyeglasses are purple, and she drives a purple jeep with a purple interior.

"When I started at the post office, mail carriers had to own their vehicles. I bought a jeep and painted it purple," said Mrs. Arnold, 58, grand marshal of tomorrow's parade. "I started wearing purple 30 years ago, and now whenever people see something purple, they think of me."

She wore her all-purple garb to a get-together at MA's Kettle restaurant in downtown Savage yesterday, attended by about 10 people whose mail she delivered until she was forced to stop for health reasons last September. They reminisced about how she would bring treats for the dogs in the community, lollipops for the children and stamps for the residents as she delivered their mail.

The small favors and the much larger ones -- such as tracking down Dianne Woods, a former Savage resident, with a letter involving $10,000 in Maryland state bonds -- earned Mrs. Arnold the privilege of being the grand marshal for tomorrow's parade.

Since September, Mrs. Arnold has been unable to work because of emphysema. She needs a lung transplant and carries a portable oxygen machine wherever she goes.

Because of that, she also personifies the theme of this weekend's festival, which is organ donation, said Mrs. Arnold's daughter, Corrinne Arnold. Pamphlets and bumper stickers about organ donation and donor cards will be available.

The two-day festival, a celebration of the Savage community, features car shows, games, parades, crafts, food, music, door prizes, and fund raising for community projects.

Mrs. Arnold admits that she feels funny about being chosen as grand marshal. "I like being in the background instead of the foreground," she said.

But her quiet perseverance as a mail carrier has left a lasting impression on many residents. Among them is Mrs. Woods, the former Savage resident, who drove from Upper Marlboro yesterday to thank Mrs. Arnold for making sure she got an important letter involving $10,000 in state bonds.

Mrs. Woods said she had purchased the 30-year bonds some time ago, "so I wasn't thinking about them." The state sent a letter to her old Savage address early last year, explaining that it wanted to pay the bonds off.

"Jan said the mail looked important, because it was registered and all. I only lived there for two years and she not only remembered me, but she went through the trouble to search for my address-change card," Mrs. Woods said.

"I probably would have gotten the money eventually, but contacting me was something she certainly didn't have to do. It's amazing she even tried to find me," Mrs. Woods said.

Mrs. Arnold said she felt the envelope was important, "like ESP or something."

She added that she still corresponds with people from her mail route who have moved away.

"I think the world of all my people. I lived in Savage 30 years," she said. "If I don't know them by name, I will remember their face."

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