STRONG — Kay Brackley heads out to work in the early morning hours regardless of the weather.

The 74-year-old Strong resident knows when something is not right as she drives her route delivering newspapers in Franklin and Kennebec counties. She can be credited with saving several lives over the years and for being a watchdog for the communities she travels through.

“You do it night after night and you know what lights are on at houses and what cars are in the yard,” Brackley said. “You get to know your customers.”

She plans to retire from her job Dec. 30.

She has delivered the Sun Journal for 28 years. In 2002 she also started delivering the Morning Sentinel and took on the Maine Sunday Telegram and The Franklin Journal deliveries along the way, too.

Her experience of knowing her customers factored into her calling the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office when she noticed an older woman’s paper had not been taken out of a paper tube for three days. It wasn’t normal. Deputies went up to check on the woman and discovered she had suffered a stroke and was lying on the floor of her home, Brackley said.

Another time, an older woman who received both the Sun Journal and the Morning Sentinel had gone out to feed the birds early in the morning. Brackley drove up the long driveway and found the woman lying on the ground. She had fallen and broken a hip.

These are just two of the incidents she has come across. Another was a fire caused by wood stove ashes outside a home without the family knowing it.

Then there was a young woman who ran out in front of her vehicle. The woman wasn’t dressed for the snow and frigid temperatures. It turned out her boyfriend had thrown her out. The sheriff’s office sent a deputy to help.

Brackley says she has enjoyed the job.

“It has been very good for me because I have gotten many compliments and many awards,” Brackley said. “I try to treat my customers the way I would want my paper delivered. I treat people the way I want to be treated. I do think it has paid off.”

She remembers when her mother received the newspaper years ago and it was sometimes wet. She would lay it out to dry. This was before there were bags to put the paper in during inclement weather.

Brackley makes sure the paper is where her customers want it.

“I’m going to miss my customers,” she said. “My customers have been very good to me and I appreciate them.”

She enjoys her time alone on the road.

“It’s my time. It’s quiet. There is no hassle as long as you deliver your papers and do it right,” she said. “I will miss my time on the road. I will probably miss that the most.”

She will also miss the spending money she earns delivering newspapers.

Brackley gets up at midnight without an alarm clock waking her.

She hopes to break her irregular sleep pattern once she retires. Currently she sleeps four hours after she finishes her route in the morning and four hours before she heads out again.

She figures she will adjust her schedule to not get up at midnight, though some people have warned her it might be difficult at first.

When she puts down her “mail hawk,” a long-handled gripper she uses to deliver papers on the right, she has plans for herself.

“I am going to knit. I am going to crochet. I am going to paint pictures and ceramics. I am going to fix up the interior of my house,” she said.

Donna M. Perry can be contacted at:

[email protected]