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Paula Warrell was concerned when she saw the letter that came with her Gazette letting her and other customers know their carrier was ill.

The second letter telling her that he'd died devastated her.

"I felt like I'd lost a member of my family," said Warrell, 77. "I'm not the only one. My neighbors feel the same way."

Howard Pudder died unexpectedly March 4 at the age of 56. He lived with his brother, who had been forced to quit working because of health issues, and their cat, Tilly.

"He just went above and beyond, and he did that for everyone - not just me, but our whole neighborhood," said Warrell, whose Kissing Camels home was on Pudder's route for at least a decade.

"He did a job that, I'll bet you, 90 percent of the high school students with a driver's license would think beneath them, and he did that job with so much pride and was so careful, always being respectful of the job and of his customers."

Vicki Cederholm, The Gazette's director of operations, said Pudder was an independent contractor with the Gazette for about 30 years. Since his death, she said, condolences and testimonials have poured in.

"Everything from, 'He was a great carrier, we appreciate the service he's given' to 'Please pass on our condolences' and 'Our delivery will never be the same, we looked forward to seeing him every morning,'" Cederholm said.

"Howard took so much pride in what he did and cared so much about his customers that he took it to the next level," she said.

Pudder's brother, Frederic, said Howard enjoyed reading and playing video games. He also was a collector of sports cards and anything related to John Wayne. When he died, his brother said, he had every holiday card his customers gave him.

And after decades on the job, that was a lot of cards, Frederic Pudder said.

Money from a GoFundMe page for Pudder will go to support his brother's medical needs. Nearly $500 had been raised as of Sunday.

One donor commented: "In memory of and thanks to Howard for his dedicated service of delivering our three newspapers early every day and at the foot of the door for years. He will be greatly missed."

Frederic said his brother was selfless and caring, sometimes to a fault.

"He was a great guy in every way and sense of the word," Frederic said in a shaky voice Saturday. "I really like the idea that so many people loved him and appreciated him."

The brothers lived together for most of their lives.

"It's very hard, looking at the other end of the table and not seeing him there," Frederic said. "It's not easy."

Visit Pudder's GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/howardpudder.

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