Duluth mail carrier receives national attention for heroism

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night -- or recognition as a hero -- will keep letter carrier Mike Sylvester from his appointed rounds. The Duluth postal worker was expected to be on his Lincoln Park route at 7 a.m. today after flying...

Mike Sylvester
The 2012 Heroes of the Year from the National Association of Letter Carriers are (from left) Mike Hollmann, Mike Sylvester of Superior, Cassandra Summers, Tom Logue, Charlie Rose and Celia Ruiz. All six were honored in Washington, D.C., this week. (Photo courtesy of National Association of Letter Carriers)

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night -- or recognition as a hero -- will keep letter carrier Mike Sylvester from his appointed rounds.

The Duluth postal worker was expected to be on his Lincoln Park route at 7 a.m. today after flying from Washington, D.C., to Duluth and reaching his home in Superior around midnight.

"Right back at it," Sylvester said while waiting on his plane from Washington on Friday night. He had just experienced two days of whirlwind activity in the nation's capital, where on Thursday afternoon he received one of the National Association of Letter Carriers' "Hero of the Year" awards.

Six people from regions across the country received awards for selfless acts in all kinds of life-saving situations along their mail routes. Sylvester was honored for pulling a woman from her badly wrecked car after an accident.

As an added bonus, all six were named "Person of the Week" on the national ABC News telecast Friday evening. The segment opened and closed with Sylvester talking about postal workers being the eyes and ears in neighborhoods across the country.


"That's the spirit of what built this country," Sylvester said on screen. "You help out where necessary and do whatever it takes to get the job done."

Later, he said, "I see myself as someone who delivers the mail and helps out where necessary."

The group had been touring the Supreme Court building Friday morning, one of many personal tours they enjoyed, when ABC News called. They grabbed some uniforms and hit the streets of Washington to make it appear they were being interviewed on their routes.

Sylvester said he was originally taped walking in front of some brownstone buildings when the producer said there probably weren't any such buildings in Duluth.

"We went to a more traditional residential area," he said, too out of his element to tell the producer that Duluth has plenty of brownstones.

"It was all just overwhelming," Sylvester said.

His favorite part of the two days in Washington was the Thursday luncheon where the letter carriers actually received their certificates of heroism and accolades from union President Fredric Rolando.

"It's very flattering being recognized by your peers," Sylvester said.


The union represents 280,000 members working for the U.S. Postal Service.

Sylvester was chosen as the Central Region hero for responding to a car accident in February. A woman had lost control of her car on 24th Avenue West and crashed into a utility pole and a home at Third Street after hitting several other objects going down the sidewalk, including traffic signs and a gas meter. It's believed her brakes failed.

Under the risk of explosion as a gas meter hissed and the car spilled gasoline, Sylvester and another man ran to the car and got the woman out.

The five other recipients had similar quick reaction to tense situations, according to the Letter Carriers union:

  • Thomas Logue, a 28-year letter carrier from New Jersey, saved a boy engulfed by a large wave on Father's Day. He saw the youngster pulled out to sea by a rip current before disappearing under a wave.
  • Charlie Rose, a 23-year veteran in Ohio, has detected at least a dozen natural gas leaks on his route, saving lives and prompting the local gas utility to replace more than 17,000 feet of pipe and Athens' City Council to require carbon monoxide detectors in 4,500 new rental properties.
  • Mike Hollmann III of Phoenix noticed a woman lying on the ground near her wheelchair being attacked by three angry pit bulls. Scaling the top of a fence, he distracted the dogs until police came.
  • Celia Ruiz of Virginia Beach, Va., observed her neighbor's children thrown airborne after being struck by a drunk driver and provided emergency care.
  • Cassandra Summers of Naperville, Ill., was named the Humanitarian of the Year. She founded a nonprofit group to redecorate the rooms of breast cancer patients. Sylvester, who's been on his route the past seven years, said the response from people in the Northland has been overwhelming since the News Tribune printed a story about his award in early August.

    "I've had tons of phone calls after that," he said. "Even from people I haven't seen since grade school."

    Now that he's been on national TV, the recognition probably will continue. Starting this morning as he makes his rounds.

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