Photo by Barb Sobel/Good Scents.
Special to the Star & Wave
Good things come in brown packages, especially if United Parcel Service (UPS) employee David Neal was delivering them.
A loyal UPS employee of 31 years, Neal, 56, died of cancer on Sept. 17, 2019. He leaves behind his daughter Rhiannon Neal, sons Stas and Dawson Neal and the Cape May community who grew to know him over the years.
Neal was beloved by the residents of Cape May, who interacted with him both in their home and work deliveries. Neal was known as “Booger” and always had a bad joke to deliver along with his packages.
“He had that [Booger] nickname when I started working at UPS about twenty years ago,” UPS worker Glenn Bratlie said. “I actually didn’t know his name was Dave for about five years because everyone just called him Booger. That was his sense of humor.”
What do cows love to read? Cattle-logs, is a joke from Neal’s arsenal.
“We knew him as Booger and he was never without a joke,” Summer Sun owner Dana Fiocca said. “I’m not sure why he was known as Booger, honestly. Most people knew him as that. He delivered to us three to four times a week in the offseason. His slow, deadpan, ‘thank you for choosing UPS for your shipping needs…enjoy your freight,’ was perfection.”
Many local Cape May businesses routinely receive daily UPS deliveries.
“He was such an important part of our business, The Bird House of Cape May,” Sharon Flanagan said. “We saw him daily if not three to four times a week. We gave him a key to our store during the offseason so he could bring in packages on days we were closed.”
Flanagan said even after they closed their store, Neal would still deliver packages to the West End Garage for them, especially if shippers ignored their new address.
“He didn’t have to do that, since UPS would charge extra for shipments with incorrect addresses,” Flanagan said.
If a package delivery went awry, Neal would to go above and beyond to assist the community.
“I have had numerous bridesmaids who used Rent the Runway and poorly planned,” Cape Resorts Wedding Director Krystina Kennedy said. “Thanks to Booger, I was always able to save the day, but only because I would call and beg him to adjust his route. He once brought me a dress to the hotel that was supposed to go to my home because I poorly planned.”
Neal took extra care to make sure packages were not left out in the rain, when he was making a delivery.
“Dave gave me his personal phone number and I called him when I had 150 of my Saving Higbee books being delivered in the pouring rain, while I was in Connecticut,” Cape May resident Carol King Hood said. “He called me and my books were safely delivered to a friend’s home. Dave will be greatly missed. I considered Dave a friend, not just a UPS delivery guy.”
Even if the forecast predicted inclement weather, Neal was a step ahead on protecting packages from rain.
“I met Dave 28 years ago when he carried 30 cartons of T-shirts into my backyard to put under an overhang because it looked like rain,” Colors Owner Steve Haley said. “I loved that he did that, but I also didn’t love that I had to take them back into my van in the driveway, it didn’t rain.”
Haley said Neal provided great service and a good joke. Neal would deliver Haley’s home deliveries to Colors, so they could keep up in the summer.
Cape May resident Jacquelyne Kocis knew Neal from his deliveries to both her home and work.
“I loved this guy,” Kocis said. “He never left my packages in the rain and was so good to my family. I had been wondering why I hadn’t seen him around or yelling at the door, ‘it’s just me.’”
Neal is remembered as kind to everyone he crossed his path with, both two and four-legged. Cape May Point resident Connie Campanella said she still tells her dog ‘It’s Dave’ when a package arrives.
“He always had a great smile and a joke about my little, nasty dog Muffin, who constantly barked at him,” Cape May resident Debbie Sundstrom said. “He would just leave my things on the porch. He was such a sweet man.”
If Neal saw one of his customers in the street, he would flag them down to deliver the package in person.
“Dave was a great guy,” Cape May resident Lynn Jefferis said. “He would let my young grandson ‘help’ him carry in packages. Many a time he would flag me down on the street to give me a packaged so I wouldn’t have to wait for him to get to my house, as I was at the end of his route. He truly was one of a kind.”
Neal’s ability to memorize faces and connect the with addresses was uncanny.
“I’d see Dave making deliveries at the Cape May Tennis Club and say to him 750 Park Bvld., and he’d reply, ‘Hello Mr. Fischer,” West Cape May resident Steve Fischer said. “All you’d have to do is give him an address and he’d know your name. Amazing.”
Neal’s energy resonated with the town, as he could make a bad day a good one, just by his personality. Jim’s Bait and Tackle employee Dennis McVay said Neal was always happy to see him and ready to tell jokes.
“Dave was a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine,” Cape May Point Deputy Mayor Anita VanHeeswyk said.
With Neal’s personality, it comes as no surprise he befriended the people to whom he delivered, especially if the visits were frequent.
“My wife and I considered him to be a best friend,” Cape May resident Doug Cranstoun said. “He always stopped in my garage to see what hot rod I was working on, because he delivered all the parts. He would ask, ‘So what is this for,’ and I would point out where it goes and he would just smirk. He said he could drive it faster than me.”
The Cape May community noticed different UPS delivery people in the past few months, many wondering if Neal’s route had changed.
“He was a character that will not be forgotten,” Cape May resident Jennifer Papendick Tozer said. “Had he reached out to the Cape May community for help, there would have been a shortage of beef and beer for miles. I really hope he knows how much he was loved.”
Cape May resident Terryl Chapman said Neal brightened up the day with his positivity, strong efficiency and quick wit.
“He made everyone feel special,” Chapman said. “He was a friend to our whole community. He wasn’t ordinary. I think people like Dave are living the love and are so happy to pass it along, that they know how much we love them and don’t need to be told, because they are living in love.”
As for the writer of this article, I knew when I heard Neal had died after a battle with cancer, I wanted to write a tribute to him. I saw Dave more times than I can count, from both home deliveries and ones to the motel where I used to work.
Neal was kind enough to deliver packages to me at work, when they required signatures. He even told me while I was at work, he delivered my bedframe, it was sitting at my house waiting for me. I sheepishly told him I was expecting a futon the next day.
Like Fischer said, Neal’s knack for blending together addresses and faces was remarkable. He knew the addresses of all three places I had lived on the island and could spout them off without being prompted.
I’d always ask Neal, “How are you doing?” to which he would reply, “Living the dream.” I think he truly was living the dream. For over 30 years, he delivered smiles along with UPS packages.
The entire Cape May community will miss Neal’s deliveries, jokes and energetic spirit.
A visitation for Neal was held on Saturday, Sept. 28 at Middleton-Stroble and Zale’s Funeral Home in Somers Point. His obituary can be read here.