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A letter carrier named Elvis helps to promote a new stamp

Postal carrier Elvis Velazquez, named after Elvis Presley,

Postal carrier Elvis Velazquez, named after Elvis Presley, delivers mail on his route in Central Islip, Aug. 25, 2015. Credit: Bruce Gilbert

In the back offices of the Central Islip Post Office, Elvis comes and goes on a daily basis. He's dressed in a blue hat, shirt and shorts, not blue suede shoes, but he has fans nonetheless.

When the United States Postal Service sought to promote the Aug. 12 release of its second Elvis Presley stamp as part of the Music Icons series, officials searched for employees whose first name is the same as the late singer, who died in August 1977. Mike Robinson, the postmaster in Central Islip, didn't have to look far -- Elvis Velazquez is one of his letter carriers.

"We were ribbing him that Elvis is such a unique name, and that you associate the name Elvis with Elvis [Presley]," Robinson said. "Someone will page him and someone will say, 'Elvis has left the building.' That's what was said after the Elvis concerts."

Velazquez, 37, a North Babylon resident and father of three, said his parents, Elsa and Eddie, named him after the rock legend when he was born in 1977.

He has grown into the name, recalling that in grade school the moniker triggered a lot of jesting. The taunting bothered him then, he said, but now he takes questions and comments about it in stride.

"Do you like your name?" he said people ask. "I tell them yes, and they go, 'For real?' "

Robinson said the Postal Service searched throughout the Northeast region to find an Elvis. "My Elvis was one of a dozen in this area."

The Postal Service first featured Presley on a stamp in 1993, and according to officials, it is the agency's best-selling commemorative stamp of all time. Robinson said public demand led to the most recent stamp, and added that the latest release comes with extras.

"The difference this time?" he said. "We're offering an exclusive limited edition CD: (Elvis Forever) with 18 of Presley's hit songs and two previously unreleased versions of the songs 'If I Can Dream' and 'What Now My Love.' "

Robinson added that the Long Island District, which consists of 150 post offices and stretches from Montauk to Queens, has so far sold 70 percent of its nearly 1,000 CDs.

The Music Icons series debuted in 2013 and has featured Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Lydia Mendoza.

"To be immortalized on a stamp is quite rare, and to be immortalized twice even more special," Mark Saunders, a postal service spokesman, said of the second Elvis release.

Velazquez's co-workers think he's special. On a recent morning, Velazquez began the day in his cubicle, organizing bundles of letters, magazines, advertising materials and parcels he would deliver that day. A passing co-worker complimented him.

"He's like the star, his personality," said Nidia Torres. "We love you."

Newsday went on "tour" with Velazquez recently as he made his postal rounds, and asked him some questions about his name, his namesake and his day job.

When did your mother tell you whom you were named after, and what was your reaction?

When I was in high school I asked my mother, 'What was the reason you named me Elvis? You are not a fan of his.' She said, 'You were born the year he died.' I was shocked; that's the reason? I don't sing or play an instrument!

How do people react to your name?

I was constantly ribbed in elementary school, and I was upset. It was less in high school. On the route they ask if I can sing and stuff; where's your shoes?

On my first job (Velazquez transferred to Central Islip two years ago from the Old Chelsea Post Office in Manhattan), they'd get on the speaker, they'd say, 'Elvis just left the building.' Here, they'll do it by the desk. When I return (from covering his route), 'He's back in the building.' I can laugh. That's what happens when you have a famous name.

How do you feel about participating in the promotion for the new Forever Stamp honoring Elvis Presley?

I'm happy to be part of it; anything to help the Postal Service.

What were you doing the day the stamp was released?

I came to work that day. I was organizing the mail for my route. The postmaster comes to me and says, 'Would you like to do an interview?' I thought I got in trouble. In the beginning I hesitated; I'm not a good speaker, and I get nervous. Then I said maybe I'll let them know about me, to help out.

Have you met other people named Elvis?

AA couple months ago I ordered something from a store and went to pick it up. They said 'Elvis.' I said 'Here.' There was another Elvis there, a younger man. We shook hands and laughed about it. I named my first son Andrew Elvis, for him to follow my name.

Do you like Elvis Presley's music or collect any memorabilia about him?

If it's playing somewhere I listen to it. I do not collect memorabilia, but right after we were married 12 years ago, my wife, Yahaira, gave me an Elvis doll, which I have. I tried to sign his name the way Elvis did. It was hard. Since we have the same name I said I'd try.

Do you like the new stamp?

I love it. The way he looks on the stamp, the way his hair is, the smile.

Have you ever visited Graceland, Presley's mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, or plan to go?

I've never been to Graceland or plan to go. But if the opportunity came up I would, why not?

What are the top three things that make a good postal carrier?

Organizing your work, knowing your customers, always being professional.

What do you like best about your job?

Working outside; meeting people. It's a nice workout, of course. I lost 20 pounds. I used to weigh 185.

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