Letter carrier lauded for bringing joy to the blind
Jimmy Walterick brings the visually impaired their link to the world with books on tape. And he does it with a smile.
By LORRIE LYKINS
Published December 18, 2005
SEMINOLE - The people at Lake Seminole Resort wrote a song about "Jimmy the mailman." They sing it to the tune If You Knew Susie Like I Know Susie, and the lyrics mention his ready smile and sunny disposition. And his legs. The ladies remark quite a bit about Jimmy the mailman's legs.
But that's not why they wrote the song.
The Pinellas Talking Book Library, which serves the blind, has named letter carrier James "Jimmy" Walterick outstanding letter carrier of the year for north Pinellas County. He will be presented with a plaque on Monday during a ceremony at Lake Seminole Resort mobile home park.
Walterick, of Seminole, was among 12 postal workers nominated by the library's patrons. This is the first year the library is honoring mail carriers for their service in delivering to disabled customers. Neil Hunt, who delivers mail in northeast St. Petersburg, was selected as the outstanding mail carrier for south county. Library organizers used Park Boulevard as the dividing line between north and south Pinellas.
One day last week, Walterick zipped through his route quickly and smiled broadly as he alighted from his truck, his hand filled with envelopes. Residents often meet him at the door.
One man called out "Hey Jimmy, whaddaya got for me today? Love letters? Fan mail?"
Walterick sprinted up a driveway where a woman stood at her door waiting, smiling.
"Well, how are you today, girlie?" Walterick asked.
"Oh, Jimmy, if it wasn't for you, I wouldn't get any exercise at all," Margerie Romine retorted as Walterick handed her a bundle. "I guess I'm doing pretty good, considering I'm only 87."
As Walterick headed back to his truck, Romine watched for a moment.
"I sent him a card this year because he's so friendly to everyone. I told him he sure is a special Joe," she said.
About 5,000 patrons throughout the county use the library each year; it carries more than 50,000 titles that can be delivered by mail. Users return the books, postage prepaid, when they are done.
"The mail carriers do so much for our patrons and we thought it would be nice to give them some recognition," said Marilyn Stevenson, librarian for the facility, in Clearwater, where the blind can get audio books free.
Walterick was nominated for the honor by Lake Seminole Resort resident and Talking Book user Arline Wilson. Wilson, 74, lost her sight to wet macular degeneration in 2001. She discovered the library through classes she attended at a local blind services agency shortly after she began to lose her sight.
"I read seven to nine books a week," Wilson said. "And Jimmy always brings them to me with a cheery smile and a kind word."
When Wilson learned that the library intended to honor mail carriers, she wrote a letter praising Walterick. Her husband, Ken, circulated a petition throughout the mobile home community of 248 residences in May.
"Some folks had gone back North so we got on the phones and called long distance to get permission to put their names on the petition. That's how much we wanted Jimmy to be recognized," said Ken Wilson.
"We couldn't ignore the petition we received from the Wilsons nominating Mr. Walterick," Stevenson said. "It was page after page after page of signatures."
Walterick, 54, shrugs off the praise with a shy smile. He has been a mail carrier for 19 years. He started out part time with the postal service and covered other carriers' routes, which often included Lake Seminole Resort. He hoped to get the route full time, and eventually did.
"It's such a close-knit community that I decided this is the route I wanted to retire from," he said. "I've been with this neighborhood for 10 years now and I feel like part of the community. They are all like family to me. They're like my kids."
Walterick knows everyone in the community so well that he notices when something is amiss, Wilson said. If someone hasn't picked up their mail in a day or two, and Walterick knows they aren't out of town or in the hospital, he starts knocking on doors to find out what's going on.
Last week, Walterick was dressed in short pants and a short-sleeved shirt in spite of the chill in the air. Arline Wilson chuckled as she handled the four new books on tape that Walterick had just delivered. They were packaged in heavy green plastic boxes.
She sat on her porch listening to a book, bundled in a coat and hat, blanket over her lap.
"Jimmy always says he's too warm and I'm always cold. But I like to tease him about those shorts and his hairy legs," she said, laughing as he headed down the street.
TO LEARN MORE
For information on the Talking Book Library, contact the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative at 441-9958.