Josh Hefta

Josh Hefta, a rural mail carrier in Walsh County, was honored Thursday for saving the life of a 94-year-old woman who lived along his route.

Forum News Service

MINTO, N.D. — Josh Hefta has 162 stops on his rural mail route in Walsh County.

"I've gotten to know a lot of people," he said.

One of those people is 94-year-old Alice Paschke, who lived alone on a gravel road.

“Alice was just a nice lady, and she was out there by herself,” Hefta said.

Last fall, Hefta started bringing Paschke’s mail up to her house every day. She was getting slower. On a cold day in January, he knocked on her door and didn’t hear anything. He knocked again.

“I thought I could hear a faint somebody in the house," Hefta said.

Paschke had fallen 20 hours earlier and couldn’t get up or reach the phone. She knew her one chance would be when the mailman would come to her door at about 12:45 p.m.

“I said, ‘Come in.’ I said, ‘I need help,’” she recalled on Thursday. “He saved my life. And that's a true story.”

When he heard Paschke’s cries for help, Hefta wasn’t sure what to do. He wasn’t sure if could break a door down. But that’s what he did.

“I hit it pretty good twice, and it popped up. Adrenaline I guess,” he said.

Chet Paschke, Alice’s son, said Hefta even apologized for the damage to the door.

“I told (Chet) that should be the last of your worries,” Hefta said.

Asked what it was like when Hefta walked in to rescue her, Paschke said, “I thought I was in heaven already.”

Hefta was recognized for the lifesaving feat Thursday with the Postmaster General Award, the highest award a mail carrier can receive. He was bestowed the award in a ceremony at the post office in Minto, a town of about 600 people 30 miles north of Grand Forks. His name will also be added to the Heroes Wall at the Postal Service headquarters in Washington.

“I'm quite honored, actually. I've never had anything like this happen to me. Pretty big honor,” he said, noting that it was part of his training as a mail carrier to check on vulnerable people.

Paschke also made it to the post office Thursday, marking the first time she and Hefta have been reunited since that January day.

“Just a good mailman, and I can't forget him,” Paschke said. “For the rest of my life, for as long as my memory works, I'm going to remember.”

Now Paschke lives in a nursing home in Grafton, along someone else's mail route. So Hefta no longer gets a Rice Krispies treat and a can of Coke as a midday snack.

“Now I got to pack my own drinks,” Hefta said with a laugh.