Josh Hefta was a mailman who worked a route in Walsh County, North Dakota. As such, he dropped in on a fair few houses every day. Specifically, Hefta’s route featured an impressive 162 stops to deliver mail.
Hefta is part of a gigantic system that stretches across the United States. In fact, the United States Postal Service (USPS) delivers over 154 billion packages, letters and other mail every year. Unlike email, real people do the actual delivery, meaning they deal with citizens face to face.
As a result, people often get to know their mail carriers, and a friendly relationship sometimes develops. Indeed, when the holiday season rolls around, many people choose to leave tips for their mailman. This can include cash, gifts or simply a cup of cocoa.
It’s a good thing too – mail carriers face a myriad of challenges in their day-to-day work. Even the USPS trucks can be difficult to master, since their steering columns are on the right-hand side. And the vehicles are normally around 25 to 30 years old.
Sometimes, mail carriers are actually allowed to refuse to deliver the mail. If they feel that delivering the mail would place them in danger, a mailman can take the letters back to the post office. Additionally, if it is an extreme case, a person might have to go pick up the mail from the post office themselves.
But that wasn’t the problem Hefta encountered. He had gotten to know an old lady on his route called Alice Paschke and made an effort to deliver the mail all the way to her door. Hefta told WDAZ-TV, “Alice was just a nice lady, and she lived out there by herself.”
Paschke lived alone on a gravel road, and Hefta became a little acquainted with her over time. In fact, because his route took him to Paschke’s house around lunchtime, she would sometimes offer him Rice Krispie treats and a Coke.
However, one day in January 2017, Hefta noticed something was wrong. As usual, he’d knocked on Paschke’s door, having made the walk up to the house instead of leaving the mail in the mailbox. But he didn’t hear any response and decided to knock again.
As he was knocking, Hefta believed he heard sounds coming from inside. As he related to WDAZ-TV, “I thought I could hear a faint somebody in the house.” After a moment, he realized that what he could hear was a cry for help, that Paschke was in some kind of trouble.
“I didn’t really know what to do, I didn’t know if I could break a door open,” Hefta said. On the other hand, he knew he had to do something, so he sprang into action. Hefta added, “I hit it pretty good twice, and it popped right open. Adrenaline, I guess.”
Consequently, Hefta discovered what had happened to Paschke. As it transpired, the elderly lady had been lying on the floor for 20 hours. And she hadn’t been able to arise or get to the phone. So she knew her only chance was to try and signal Hefta when he was scheduled to arrive at her house.
Indeed, Paschke recounted later how she had called out to Hefta. “I says, ‘Come in.’ I says, ‘I need help,’” she recalled. “He saved my life. And that’s a true story… I thought I was in heaven already.” Unsurprisingly, Paschke and her family appeared hugely grateful for Hefta’s dedication that day.
In light of his heroic endeavours, Hefta was honoured with the Postmaster General Award. Uniquely, it is the most prestigious award that the USPS can bestow on a mail carrier. Additionally, Hefta had his name engraved on the Heroes Wall at the Washington headquarters.
Although it was an award that was richly deserved, Hefta was still deeply touched to receive it. He said, “I’m quite honored actually. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me. Pretty big honor.” Apparently, his initial training actually included how to check on vulnerable members of society.
While Paschke was able to survive her ordeal, she ended up moving into a nursing home in Grafton. Despite this, she was effusive with her praise for Hefta. She said, “Just a good mailman, and I can’t forget him… For the rest of my life, for as long as my memory works, I’m going to remember.”
Actually, Josh Hefta wasn’t the only mailman to be rewarded for outstanding service in 2017. As a matter of fact, mailman Ralph Ortiz of California was honoured in June for an amazing feat of dedication: he had been a mailman in California since the 1980s.
In his case, Ortiz was given an award by the National Safety Council for his spectacular driving record. Significantly, Ortiz had been driving his mail van for over 30 years and had never had a mishap on the road. The award is normally given out for either one million miles or three decades of driving without an avoidable accident.
Actually, Ralph Ortiz managed to drive the equivalent of 40 times around the world, never once getting into an automotive scrape. However, that was not the only impressive thing about the incredible achievement. In fact, he racked up the distance without ever leaving Montebello, California.
Indeed, it was an honor for Ortiz to receive the prestigious award, which included an engraved plaque and even a lettered jacket. According to Ortiz, “I never actually wore a letterman’s jacket [in high school]. I never got to even keep a letter. I gave them all away.”
Ultimately, his driving feat is unlikely to be matched by many people. The 61-year-old claimed that he was only able to reach a million miles by being vigilant at all times when at the wheel. Additionally, he always tried to anticipate the actions of other drivers.