Delivering life-saving service
LETCHER -- Usually a letter carrier brings the mail, but to Norma Fristad earlier this year, it was an angel who made the delivery.
Fristad, now 88, fell and broke her hip on July 16 outside her rural home near Letcher, where she lives alone. With visitors uncommon, Fristad said she had one hope of being found -- her mailman, Clinton Pence.
Fristad said she fell a considerable distance from the house, where she knew no one would find her, but managed to crawl on her elbows to a place where Pence might spot her during his delivery.
"I called for a while, prayed for a while, I called some more and prayed some more," Fristad said. "I was quite sure he (Pence) hadn't been by yet, although I didn't know the time."
Pence, who has been the rural Letcher mail carrier for 10 years, recalled the morning of the incident as an otherwise-normal route.
"I pulled into her turnaround like I always do, put the mail in the box and turned to leave, but just happened to look over my shoulder and saw somebody lying on the ground in the distance," Pence said.
He didn't immediately know it was a person on the ground, he said. But he knew it didn't look right, so he drove ahead and discovered Fristad, who had been there for a couple of hours.
"It's a very isolated road," Pence said. "People just don't look in, especially far enough to see somebody."
He then contacted people in the area who would be able to help her, and waited until they came before continuing his 130-mile route.
After hearing about the incident from a friend of Fristad's, Vicki L. Linke, who was at the time, the postmaster in Mount Vernon, nominated Pence for the United States Postal Service Hero Award. The award recognizes USPS employees who go above and beyond their duties to help others in times of need, Linke said.
On Dec. 13, Darrell Stokke, district manager for the USPS Dakotas District, visited the Letcher Post Office to congratulate Pence and present him with the Hero Award. Fristad, who had since made a full recovery, also attended the presentation to express her gratitude to Pence.
"It really was a life-saving event for me," Fristad said, noting that Pence was humble in his acceptance of the award.
"I was just glad I was there, that's all," Pence said. "And you just hope other people will be around if you ever need help."
A similarly modest attitude was expressed four years ago by another recipient of the Hero Award. Mount Vernon rural carrier, Alan Greenway, who died on Friday, received the honor in 2010 for his service in helping a Mount Vernon woman who fell and broke her arm.