Posted 02-01-2005 at 09:57:10
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By Gregory A. Hall
The elderly woman usually left her apartment door open in the early afternoon so postal carrier Dan McKiernan could bring in her mail.
But one day in November 2003 the door was shut, and McKiernan worried. He knocked and heard the woman, Helen Von Holdt, yell for help.
McKiernan summoned a resident manager to bring a key. Inside, they found that Von Holdt had fallen in her bathroom. They called her daughter and an ambulance.
After 11 years on the same Bon Air neighborhood mail route and 16 as a carrier, McKiernan said his customers are more than a series of mailboxes.
"You watch out for each other and you know when something's happening that shouldn't be," McKiernan said.
He was among 15 postal employees honored yesterday in the U.S. Postal Service's annual Heroes & Hard Workers awards presented during a luncheon at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Winners were selected from the 10,300 employees in the postal district that covers Kentucky and Southern Indiana, with awards based on attendance, attitude, appearance, performance, customer relations and safety. Recipients got a certificate and a star-shaped trophy.
Five of the 15 recipients are credited with helping someone who was physically distressed, including saving or helping to save a life.
Bon Air resident Norb Gnadinger Jr., who suggested the postal service commend McKiernan after the 2003 incident, said in an interview Wednesday that the carrier has "all the material needed to be a hero."
"I hope he stays forever," Gnadinger said.
"I think we're very lucky that we know him," Von Holdt's daughter, Michelle Singer, said yesterday.
McKiernan "always has time to talk to her (and) just check on her. He's more a friend than just her postman."
Among the other honorees was Camp Taylor-area letter carrier Bruce Woods, a carrier for more than 20 years who helped a stranger while waiting to eat lunch at a Preston Highway restaurant in March.
Seeing another patron foaming at the mouth, Woods grabbed him before he could fall, helped him to the ground and called an ambulance.
Then he ran to a firehouse behind the restaurant and sought help.
"I would have done it for anybody," Woods said in a telephone interview.
Postal service spokeswoman Valerie Hughes said employees aren't trained to render assistance as part of their job. But with many carriers serving the same neighborhoods for years, Woods said, they know the people behind names on the mail they deliver.
"Sometimes we're the lookout" for them, he said.
During yesterday's ceremony, McKiernan and Woods sat at a table with their wives, Irene McKiernan and Marlene Woods, talking about their experiences.
"A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time," McKiernan said.
After the luncheon, many of the recipients posed for pictures with family, each other, postal officials and the ceremony's emcee, Rick Van Hoose of WLKY television.
Leaving the ceremony, Marlene Woods said, "I'm taking my hero home."