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Mail carrier delivers mullet

(ran NS S editions of B)

Lenny Casimer has an armful of plastic foam packages containing fried mullet, hush puppies and baked beans, and he's too busy to stop and chat.

"How'd you like it?" he hurriedly asks a group of women eating the fried fish Sunday afternoon at Palm Lake Village, a 475-home public housing complex for the low-income elderly in Dunedin.

They barely get the words, "It was delicious," out of their mouths and Casimer is gone, out the door and into a waiting minivan that is headed to deliver the fish dinners to nearby shut-ins.

These 200 men and women know Casimer well. Every day, except Sunday, he comes to their doors with mail and packages, a popular U.S. Postal Service carrier with a route in Dunedin.

But once a year, Casimer leaves the blue uniform at home and brings them something else: a very personalized fish fry. All of the 200 mullet served Sunday at Casimer's sixth annual lunch cookout were caught in a cast net by Casimer, his sons or a friend who helps him.

"Len loves to fish," said his wife, Mary, who helped out Sunday in the kitchen at the Palm Lake Village community room. "We have fish all the time. Fish is like part of our curriculum."

Casimer, 43, got the idea shortly after beginning the Palm Lake Village route about seven years ago. He wanted to do something for the older people to whom he delivered mail.

"We enjoy doing it for them," Mary Casimer said. "On his route, everybody says how much they are looking forward to the fish fry. It's something that only takes a little bit of our time."

Casimer gets help from his father, from some friends who store frozen filleted mullet in their refrigerators and from some fellow postal workers, who work the deep-fryers where mullet and hush puppies sizzle.

Inside, the Palm Lake Village residents have just begun to dig into their fish.

"He's always so kind to us," said Melva Martin, a 65-year-old resident who has been eating Casimer's fish as long as he's been cooking it.

"I don't care what kind it is," said Beatrice Turey, 66. "I love fish.

"This is costing him money," Turey continued. "He won't accept any money for it. He's a doll. Too bad there aren't many like him. The mayor of Dunedin should give him a key to the city."

Casimer does get a little financial help, from service clubs and businesses for the cost of some of the victuals. But his dark tan is a testimony to the sweat equity he puts into the fish fry, his years walking a carrier route and hours spent casting a mullet net.

On this rainy Sunday with a hand full of fried fish, both Turey and Martin reflect on how times have changed, how people used to help each other as Casimer is doing and how that doesn't happen much any more.

But Casimer is loath to acknowledge he is doing anything special.

"It just seemed to be a good idea," he said after returning from the delivery run. "I love these people."