On a cold afternoon in January, Josh Hefta was on his usual postal service route in Walsh County, North Dakota when he encountered a serious situation. As he approached the home of 94-year-old Alice Paschke, he realized something wasn’t right.
Her home was one out of 162 delivery stops for Hefta, but it was quite different from the rest. The mailman had formed a special bond with Paschke, who live in a deserted area all by herself.
The sweet woman would always meet Hefta outside with a snack — typically a Rice Krispie treat and a Coke. But, after awhile, it became a lot more difficult for the older lady to walk to her mailbox.
Hefta tried to help her out by bringing her mail directly to her front door. “When it started getting pretty cold in the fall we started going up to her house every day and bringing it to her cuz she was getting slower,” he told WDAY-TV.
On this particular day, Hefta knocked and waited for Paschke to answer. He became nervous once he realized she wasn’t coming to the door to greet him.
He banged again, and that’s when he heard a faint cry coming from inside. “I said, ‘Come in.’ I said, ‘I need help,’” recalled Paschke.
The elderly woman had fallen 20 hours prior and couldn’t get back up. With her phone out of reach, she knew help was on the way being that Hefta usually delivers her mail at 12:45 p.m., and thankfully, she was right.
Hefta was unsure if he could get the door open, but he tried it anyhow. He eventually broke down the door and busted in to rescue Paschke, who said she thought she “was in heaven already.”
“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.”
The postal service soon remembered the brave man in their own special way as well. On Thursday, May 18, Hefta received the Postmaster General Award, which is known as the highest level of achievement for a mail carrier.
“I’m quite honored, actually,” Hefta said. “I’ve never had anything like this happen to me. Pretty big honor.”
At the ceremony, held at a post office in the city of Minto, Hefta had the chance to meet with Paschke for the first time since their last encounter in January. After the incident, Paschke was relocated to a senior living center, so the pair no longer gets to see each other anymore.
That also means no more mid-afternoon treats for Hefta, but at least he was there at the right time to save his senior friend. Paschke’s grandson, Brent, would also have to agree that the mailman was a Godsend.
“It’s so great that people like Josh Hefta go above and beyond their jobs to look after people who may be in need,” Brent wrote in a Facebook post. “In this case he happened to save my grandmas life! Thank you Josh for going above and beyond!”
The Postal Service headquarters in Washington D.C. also made plans to post Hefta’s name on their Heroes Wall. According to Paschke, he really was her lifesaver. “He saved my life,” she said. “And that’s a true story.”