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BE postal driver honored

By Staff | Apr 20, 2009

Cindy Quade presents the driving award to Bob Sturtz on Wednesday morning.

It took Bob Sturtz 30 years, one million miles and a driving record marred with no accidents to attain what few rural mail carriers ever achieve.

The National Safety Council and the United States Postal Service recently honored Sturtz with a plaque and pin for meeting this criteria.

Cindy Quade, Blue Earth’s officer in charge, presented the career achievement awards to Sturtz on April 15.

According to postal co-workers, this distinguished award has never before been presented to anyone at the Blue Earth site. In fact, only a very low percentage of people nation-wide ever earn this prestigious honor.

Sturtz, of Winnebago, began his career as a substitute carrier there in July 1978. He acted as a sub for four years before serving the next four years as a regular carrier. In the summer of 1986, he transferred to the Blue Earth office and has continued his career here ever since.

“I started on route one,” says Sturtz who explains this rural route is south and east of Blue Earth.

“Since May of 1996, I have been on route two which is predominantly west, but I also go to Frost,” he adds.

There is a third driver whose rural route is south and to Elmore.

Sturtz says his current route is 140 miles, 40 of those on blacktop roads and the other 100 on gravel.

“Driving on gravel is really hard on cars, so I just drive an ‘old beater’ to get around my route,” says Sturtz. “When I get through with them, they are ready for recycling.”

A love for being outdoors and liking to be on his own are what makes rural mail delivery a perfect job for Sturtz.

But there are also drawbacks and challenges involved in his occupation of choice. This is particularly true of the treacherous winter weather conditions in which he sometimes must drive.

“I have a winter survival kit in my car,” says Sturtz. “If I had to, I could probably remain in my stranded car for two or three days.”

The advent of cell phones has made him feel safer while on his route. He used to walk to farm houses when he got stuck, now he can just make a phone call.

Another tool he carries along is a rubber mallet. It is particularly useful in chipping the ice from the mailbox doors so he can drop in the mail.

“I can change a tire in seven minutes,” says Sturtz. Flat tires are an occupational hazard for all rural carriers.

“I had three flat tires in one day,” recalls Sturtz, “so you really get good at changing tires.”

He recalls being caught in a tornado a few years back and wound-up seeking shelter at a farm house. No one was home, but the door was unlocked so he entered the home and huddled in a closet until the storm blew over.

“When it was safe, I wrote the people a note saying I had been there and resumed my route. Later, the farmer asked me if I had delivered any mail to him before the storm struck. I told him I had. He then told me the storm had blown his mailbox away. I don’t know whether any of the mail was ever found or not,” says Sturtz.

The work day for Sturtz begins with him sorting mail for his route. This generally takes him one and one-half to two hours to complete, then he pulls it down and goes on his mail route which lasts from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Holidays are naturally the busiest time for the post office and for him. He says the slowest times are the summer months.

“You get to know the people on your route. They become like second families to you,” says Sturtz.

“When my wife, Jane, and I were expecting our first child, someone on the route knit baby booties and left them in their mailbox for me,” recalls Sturtz.

Some of the other pleasant surprises awaiting him when he has opened the mailboxes are colored Easter eggs, Easter baskets, May baskets, garden produce, home-made cookies and candies, hot chocolate in the winter and cold pop or lemonade in the summertime.

Thirty years of rural mail delivery have given Bob Sturtz a lot of wonderful memories.

It’s been a great ride…a one million mile ride in fact without an accident. A record he hopes to build upon.

“Drive safely, Bob!”