Postman aids lost Alzheimer's patient

North Riverside mail carrier interrupts route to reunite man with his family

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By Bob Uphues


Joe Teresi has been a mail carrier for the past 23 years, the last four or five in North Riverside. He has one of the larger routes in his area, bounded by Cermak Road, 26th Street/Forestview Avenue, 6th Avenue and 11th Avenue.

During that time, there haven't been many occasions where something happened to delay "the swift completion of [his] appointed rounds," as the U.S. Postal Service creed goes.

But on April 21, Teresi temporarily suspended his rounds at about 10:30 a.m. after being approached on 11th Avenue by an 82-year-old man wearing a VFW cap. The man, an Alzheimer's patient, asked Teresi if he knew where he lived.

The elderly man's last name did not ring a bell and he continued to walk north toward Cermak Road. A woman walking down the block told Teresi that the man had asked her the same question, so Teresi decided he needed to act.

"I said, 'I'm going to help that man,'" Teresi, a Channahon resident, told the Landmark. "She asked if I could leave my route, but I said, 'I don't care, this man needs help.'"

Unbeknownst to Teresi, North Riverside police were already looking for the man. His wife had called police about 10 minutes earlier, saying her husband had been missing for a half hour already.

Sgt. David Kopka, who supervises the police day shift in North Riverside, said he was flagged down near the intersection of 17th Avenue and 23rd Street by the man's wife, who reported him missing.

"I just rallied the troops," said Kopka, who along with three other officers fanned out to locate the man and alerted others in the area to be on the lookout for him. 

Meanwhile, Teresi hopped into his U.S. Postal Service vehicle and caught up with the lost man, telling him, "Come into my vehicle and I will help you find your home."

It took him only 10 minutes.

Teresi knew the postal carrier who had the route immediately west of his and figured he might recognize the man or his last name. When the man told Teresi he lived in an apartment building on a busy street he figured that had to be 17th Avenue, and drove over there, saying he planned on calling police if it turned out to be a dead end.

As he crossed 17th Avenue, Teresi's passenger said, "That's my neighbor over there."

  Teresi pulled over and rolled down his window, asking the neighbor, "Sir, do you know who this man is with me?"

"He excitedly said, 'Yes! We have been looking for him! Thank God you found him,'" Teresi said.

A couple of days after reuniting the man with his wife, Teresi visited the apartment and talked to his wife, who had waved her appreciation from an apartment window on April 21.

"Normally I don't do things like this, but just knowing the situation and the way I felt, it was an extraordinary moment where I felt the need to act," Teresi said.

Kopka said Teresi "saved the day" with his actions and praised his efforts to help the man.

"These guys are kind of another set of eyes and ears for us," Kopka said of the mail carriers. 

Email: Twitter: @RBLandmark

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Tula Demetra from North Riverside  

Posted: September 15th, 2017 11:43 AM

Joe has been my mail carrier since he began in the village. He is great at his job----some days I think, I'll walk with Joe for a while, but by the time I get out and find him, he is nearly done. But more than his job, he is a wonderful person, kind, caring, always concerned about all our families, quick with a hug such as when I lost my brother. I am so proud of Joe, but not at all surprised that he would stop everything to help a stranger. Bless you, Joe, Tula

Damaris Velazquez from North Riverside  

Posted: August 28th, 2017 11:45 AM

Thank you to Mr. Teresi and the NR PD. I work for the Alzheimers association and we receive calls like this all the time. Its great to know that we continue to have good samaritans. Keep up the good work.

Linda C Sedlak from NorthRiverside  

Posted: May 20th, 2017 1:51 PM

Joe Teresi is my mailcarrier on 9th Ave. He is always respectful and considerate of my mail making sure it doesn't get wet or stollen off the porch. I never get the neighbors mail or mail from the next block with Joe just mine and I trust him. He is a very likeable person as well. I always look forward to his smiling face. This doesn't surprise me at all to hear about him helping this man find his way home. This is only one quality of Joes character besides how hardworking he is. I hope I never lose him to another route.

Pat McAley Niemin from Hammond  

Posted: May 19th, 2017 9:53 AM

Our country was built upon the principle of "United we stand, and divided we fall" and this would include caring about the fate of our neighbors and fellow countrymen, even if that caring carries with it a price tag. This unity gave us an edge over most of the worlds population, but we are losing that edge. Today people tend to not want to get involved, and turn a blind eye when they see someone in need of help. This gentleman showed true American spirit when he went above and beyond what we have come to expect from people. He should be commended as a hero, because we have too few visible heroes for our children to look up to, and emulate. We have taken away the heroes our kids once looked up to and wanted to be like and then we question why there is no respect (or empathy) for others in the youth of today.

John Dumas from Brookfield  

Posted: May 17th, 2017 4:54 PM

Letter carriers take a lot of grief, most of it unwarranted, but when you hear stories like this, or if you had an opportunity to see the incredible amount of food they collected during their Stamp Out Hunger project last week, you realize what a special group they are. Well done Mr. Teresi and thank you to all of the letter carriers who do so much to make our communities better places.

Marybelle Mandel from North Riverside  

Posted: May 17th, 2017 10:40 AM

He is a real hero! This man goes out of his way to help someone. Hopefully we will keep him on our route. He delivers mail without a mistake and is very pleasant. It does not surprise me that he did this. He is a real hero and and outstanding mailman. Kudos to Joe!

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