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    Updated September 8, 2004    
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September 7, 2004
CONTACT: Drew Von Bergen  
(202) 662-2489 
Florida Letter Carrier
Named ‘Hero of the Year'
For Helping Save Elderly in Condominium Fire
  Washington ~ A Florida letter carrier who repeatedly fought through heavy black smoke to help evacuate elderly residents from a five-alarm condominium fire was named today as National Hero of the Year by the 300,000-member National Association of Letter Carriers.

NALC President William H. Young will present the National Hero of the Year award to Kurt E. Spaller at a special ceremony September 15 in the nation's capital. Spaller, 37, a resident of St. Petersburg, Florida, is a member of West Coast Florida NALC Branch 1477.

Spaller was midway through delivering mail on his route on June 21, 2003 when he noticed people pointing to smoke coming from a building at the aged three-story condominium complex in St. Petersburg. Knowing from his deliveries which units were occupied, he began pounding on doors on the first floor and then went to the third floor to help several elderly people down the stairs. By the time he finished, the heat and flames from the five-alarm fire had singed the hair on his arms and legs. He later helped Red Cross officials identify which residents had returned north for the summer or were on vacation.

The union's annual National Humanitarian of the Year award will be presented to John C. Frierson, 42, of Royal Oak, Michigan, a member of NALC Br. 3126, who donated life-saving bone marrow to a two-year-old leukemia victim and went on to form a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness among minorities about the importance of signing up for the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

In announcing the awards, Young noted that letter carriers regularly contribute much more to their communities than the mail they deliver.

"NALC is extremely proud of these men and women who have continued the time-honored tradition of letter carriers sacrificing their own safety to come to the aid of people in danger along their postal routes," Young said.

Three regional heroes will also be honored at the September 15 event:


Eastern Region ~Richard Fischer, 69, of Coral Springs, Florida, a member of South Florida NALC Branch 1071, was named Eastern Region Hero for helping to rescue a baby trapped under a car after the vehicle crashed into the lobby of a post office in Coral Springs on May 5, 2003. Fischer and others lifted the mangled vehicle enough for the baby to be freed.


Central Region ~ David D. Bartaway, 43, of Trenton, Michigan, a member of Western Wayne County NALC Br. 2184, was named as Central Region Hero for risking his life by jumping into a truck operated by a drug-crazed driver, wrestling for control of the vehicle while being attacked, and diverting its path from people attending the Mid-Summer Festival in Trenton, Michigan on July 9, 2003 until tumbling to the pavement with a broken nose and bones and major lacerations.


Western Region ~ Victor R. Soto, 47, of Las Vegas, Nevada, a member of NALC Branch 2502, was named Western Region Hero for saving a little boy from a raging pit bull dog on January 24, 2004. Hearing screams from the youth while delivering on his route, Soto went to his aid, forced the canine back and warded off further assault on the severely injured boy. Soto assisted the youth until paramedics arrived, then returned to his route.

Nevin V. Markel, 54, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, a member of NALC Br. 204, was selected for the Special Carrier Alert Rescue Award for heeding a call for help by Spanish-speaking patrons at an apartment complex, calling 911, and then following instructions to help a woman who was in the process of delivering a baby. After paramedics arrived, Markel switched back from delivering a baby to delivering mail on his route.

Warwick, Rhode Island Br. 3166 was named recipient of the NALC Branch Service Award recipient for a quarter century of support by its member to blood drives of the Rhode Island Blood Center. The small branch conducts four blood drives each year to provide the "gift of life" and also collects names for the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

Judges for the awards were Jordan Biscardo, Vice President and AFL-CIO Community Services liaison at United Way of America; Shelby Hallmark, Director, U.S. Labor Department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, and Montgomery County (MD) Deputy Fire and Rescue Services Chief Phil Guercio.

Editor's note: The awards will be presented at a special luncheon ceremony at 11:30 a.m. EDT September 15 at the Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave., NW, in Washington, DC. Electronic and print media access will be available.


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