HUNDREDS of villagers turned out to Westbourne Parish Hall to wish a happy retirement to their much-loved postman Eric Hobbs.
After 30 years of serving the community, Eric is hanging up his postbag for the last time.
To say thank you for his hard work over the years, the community held a surprise party for him on Sunday (October 20).
“I’m flabbergasted,” said Eric, who lives in Southbourne with his wife Eileen.
“I just can’t believe my eyes, I’m speechless.”
The village postman was so popular, around 400 people went along to say their goodbyes.
“When we first moved here he made us so welcome,” said Westbourne resident Jo Schofield.
“He has seen my children grow up.”
At the party, people shared their stories of Eric and how he became a friend as well as a postman.
“He and Eileen came to our silver wedding,” said Deborah Bennett. “He is part of the family, he is part of the village.”
This was a sentiment which resonated with many of the Westbourne residents who Eric has served.
Di Hughes said: “We will really miss him. He used to come in for tea and biscuits when it was cold, and squash when it was hot!”
Eric was surrounded by friends and well-wishers on Sunday, who had gotten to know him over the years.
Many told stories of how he would go the extra mile for his friends in the community and how he had built up a relationship with many of his customers.
“He was more than a postman,” said Rae Lyton.
“It is the end of an era. He was just so helpful.
“If we had a parcel he would find a place for it.
“If it was raining he would wrap it up.
“He was so caring.”
And it was this personal service that the residents of Westbourne appreciated and loved.
“I do not think they can replace him,” said Malcolm Holland.
For some this was a final goodbye to their favourite postman, but many of them said ‘see you around the village’ – so it seems clear Eric will remain a village treasure.
Eric’s daughter Lorna Paliotta said they had to organise two ‘shifts’ for the party, as the hall could only hold 200 people, and more than 400 villagers wanted to come along to say goodbye to her father.
“I am so proud that he is loved by so many people,” she said.
“So many people have made a huge effort in organising everything.
“He is more than a postman, he is a friend, and he is loved by everybody.”