Vince Palladino? Where do I begin? He was the most intelligent, serious, hard-working NAPS officer I ever had the pleasure to work with, who showed much understanding and compassion to those who needed help at work. Vince knew that there were a lot of problems that couldn’t be solved at the local level or through the NAPS chain of command, and never hesitated to help a member in need.
Although I don’t remember the exact year, I believe I first met Vince in 1987 or 1988, when San Antonio Branch 103 was preparing to host the 1988 National Convention. One of our local Branch 103 officers asked me to pick up the national NAPS Secretary at the San Antonio airport. I was branch president at the time, and because I was not familiar with NAPS protocol, I was informed that as local president, it was my duty to pick up NAPS officers whenever they came to our fair city. Ruby Handelman, who was national president at the time, and his lovely wife Evelyn, also came in to visit. All of our branch members who met them were pleased to be working with them.
Upon first meeting Vince, I was taken aback by his friendliness, boldness and frankness. And sense of humor? His pranks, teasing, jokes and hearty laughter were legendary. If I had to sum it up, I would say that initially I was just a little afraid of that New Yorker. Whenever he would go off on his tirades against the Postal Service, I would tease him about being such a ray of sunshine, and Bob McLean once quipped that “Vinnie had finally met his match.”
The 1988 convention Branch 103 hosted was a resounding success, prompting Rubin to tell us, (as he was prone to tell everyone else who hosted a national convention), YOUR convention was the best ever!!
Postal duty called me to USPS headquarters in Washington, DC, in 1990, when I was sent there to work on a “three week detail.” Postal officials kept me there for over two years. After having taken the Early Out offered in 1992, I was promptly hired back as a contractor. I was still working for the USPS in 1997 when Elaine Traylor, Vince’s highly esteemed and very capable secretary, suddenly passed away.
Vince was understandably distraught at Elaine’s passing, and was trying to figure out how to replace her. As I recall, it was two of his closest friends, Ruby Handelman and our head of the NAPS Disciplinary Defense Fund, Charlie Scialla, who came up with the idea that perhaps I could go work for NAPS Headquarters. Both Ruby and Charlie knew me as San Antonio branch president and as a USPS Headquarters employee. They knew I had worked not only as a small-town postmaster, but had worked at the local, regional and USPS headquarters levels. They figured that my background would serve Vince and NAPS well. When I heard of their proposal, I told Vince it might be worth a try, and that if it didn’t work out, I could always go back to the USPS as a contractor.
I was constantly amazed at how fast Vince worked–not only did he read all relevant information that came into the office; he knew everything that was going on in the Postal Service, and never allowed anything to sit on his desk for long. I was in awe at how he could answer any question put to him, whether it had to do with mail processing, customer service, sales, whatever. The only time he had to say “I’ll get back to you,” was when he had to call some USPS manager or postmaster to plead a case for a member. And boy, did he have a wide network of USPS friends and acquaintances. But whether he had ever met them or not, he never hesitated to call the “deciding official,” or whoever it took, to get what he wanted–to help the membership. He was afraid of no one, and never hesitated to call throughout the country when necessary.
One time he received a letter from a member in the Northeast area who desperately needed a transfer to Las Vegas to be with her ailing mother and father. She had already tried the NAPS chain-of-command, and even the local Las Vegas branch had tried helping her, to no avail. We couldn’t understand why, since we knew that Las Vegas was growing at an unprecedented pace at that time. Vince promptly got on the phone and contacted the appropriate district manager, who asked us to send her application for transfer. She was promptly hired and happily working in Las Vegas not long after that. Actually, while working in his office, I found many letters and cards thanking Vince for what he had done for them. He understood that sometimes even knowledgeable and capable local officers are unable to solve all issues. Sometimes all it took was a phone call from NAPS headquarters to get the job done, sometimes it took more. But whatever it took, Vince did it.
Whenever I accompanied him to any NAPS function anywhere, he tried to be a gentleman, making his way to the bar to get me a drink. While his intentions were great, he never came back–I would look around, and there he’d be, surrounded by a bunch of NAPS members wanting to talk to him. I knew how important this was to them, and how he reveled in answering questions. If he had my drink in his hand, I quietly went up to him and grabbed it out of his hand, leaving some people wondering who I was and why I was grabbing a drink away from him. It didn’t take me long to figure out that if I needed a drink, I had to get in line and get it myself, also getting him his favorite–diet Coke, and taking it to him–I figured by then, his throat must be dry and he needed a drink!
He was equally at ease and happy speaking to the Postmaster General, or any NAPS member, especially the newest or youngest, giving each his undivided attention, The last NAPS function that Vince and I attended was a Branch 1 Christmas party held in conjunction with a business trip for the planning of the 2008 convention. I distinctly remember a nice new NAPS member coming up and introducing himself to Vince. They both proceeded to carry on a very animated conversation concerning the young man’s experience, and his new job and responsibilities in mail processing. I again thought at the time, how wonderful it was that Vince was so willing to encourage, inform and give advice to the youngest of our members. He was equally at ease doing this, as he was in talking to Postmaster Generals and Senators, one-on-one.
I consider Vince’s sudden passing an enormous loss not only to those of us who loved him, but to the Postal Service as well. He knew and understood, and never forgot the fact that without the USPS, there would be no NAPS.
My trial period as Vince’s assistant lasted from March, 1997, until December 20, 2004, when Vince’s generous, compassionate, loving heart stopped. One thing I am very thankful for is that through him, I met the most wonderful people from New York and New Jersey, especially Vince’s long-time branch 110 president Brian and Kris Michaelson, Tommy and Cathy Roma, Andy Sozzi, Charlie and Marie Scialla, John and Susan Yuen, John and Antoinette Pescitelli, plus too many others to single out.
I am back home in San Antonio and active again in my local NAPS Branch 103, but will never forget the wonderful people and times I spent with so many members I met while traveling throughout the U.S. Again, I say: “HE WHO LIVES ON IN THE HEART OF ANOTHER, NEVER REALLY DIES”