By Kerri Barber
Sometimes a little good news is a perfect way to balance out the headlines. I happened upon one such story after meeting Jow Teresi last week in Addison, IL. Teresi has been a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers AFL-CIO throughout his 23 year career as a postal worker.
I met Joe at a monthly union meeting where he shared a remarkable story first covered by the Riverside Landmark paper on May 17, 2017. The story in the paper details how Teresi, while on his daily route, meets an elderly gentleman wearing a VWF hat, wandering confused on the street. Teresi filled in added details when we spoke about the events that day.
When Teresi first encounted the older the older man, he recalled him looking confused and asking if Teresi knew where he lived. Teresi, who had delivered that route for four years looked for the man’s name in his delivery records and found nothing.
As the man moved on and Teresi continued his delivery route, but something about the encounter bothered him more than the threat of losing his job, “I was definitely conflicted. I mean, I have this job to do, a timeline to keep and there’s a procedure you have to follow, but I still felt uneasy.”
Teresi drove on still concerned about the encounter and considering his options as he watched the man disappear down the block. Just then, Teresi was approached by a woman with two small children.
“I don’t know where she came from, she was just suddenly there. I don’t know who she was and hadn’t seen her before. She asked me about the elderly gentleman, asking if he needed help. She said she didn’t have a cell phone, which I thought was odd for a mom walking with her little kids,” Joe recalled. “But there was something about her questions that made me decide to act, I can’t explain it. It was like the little push I needed.”
He wheeled his mail truck around and set out looking for the older gentlemen. He found him not far from a busy Cermak Road intersection. Teresi coaxed the man into the truck, knowing that simple gesture that could have cost him his job, “what else was I supposed to do? I felt like I had little other choice and this mattered more.”
Teresi drove the man a few blocks to the West where another mail carrier covered the route. Joe flagged down that colleague to ask if he knew the man from the route. It was then Teresi learned police had been looking for the man urgently after his wife had reported him missing. The elderly gentleman had wandered far from his home and well outside of the area police had been searching.
“It was exhilarating to know we were on the right track and he was going to get home. It wasn’t until later that I had time to consider how lucky it was to find him, how close he was to the busy road,” Teresi recalled. “Things could have turned out a lot differently.”
Joe did find the man’s home at an apartment complex nearly a mile away. He recalls the wife waving from the balcony, visibly overcome with emotion.
Sgt. David Kopka of Riverside police was quoted by the Riverside Landmark paper with crediting Joe Terisi for being a hero and how they rely on mail carriers like Joe, “These guys are kind of another set of eyes and ears for us.”
In recounting details from that day, Teresi focuses on the series of events that lead to the happy outcome. “It was about being a small part of that, just participating in it to do some good, you know? There really are no coincidences.”