Letter carrier gets million-mile award
Everybody loves the mailman, but not too many can claim they have had the same one for 30 years.
Steve Jirak has served the people around Ramona and Tampa for that many years and more. He served as a substitute mail carrier for seven years before joining the service full-time.
On March 17, Jirak received a million-mile plaque from the U.S. Postal Service. Mardee Lincoln, manager of the Herington, Ramona, and Durham post offices, presented it.
“It is with great pleasure and sincere pride that the Ramona Post Office is honoring Steve Jirak for receiving one of the most prestigious awards that the U.S. Postal Service gives a select few of its employees,” she said. “I admire the heck out of Steve. “His work ethic is tremendous. You are lucky to have him.”
Tampa patron David Mueller said Jirak is an “awesome” mail carrier.
“We’ve been so fortunate to have him for the past 30 years,” Mueller said. “He not only provides efficient and accurate deliveries but is a resource for the community. He knows everybody, and when Tampa was applying for a playground grant, he knew all the children and their ages. If you have a question, you ask Steve.”
Jirak drives 40,000 miles in 300 days each year. He said he actually has driven almost 1.5 million miles on the job. He has never missed a day of work.
He figures he’s gone through 12 or 14 vehicles, including a Chevrolet S-10, several Chevrolet Novas, full-size four-wheel drive pickups, and hatchbacks.
He makes sure to have a back-up vehicle at all times.
One of the perks of his job is getting gifts of food. He will never forget one gift he received in 1983. He was dating a girl whose parents lived on the Ramona route.
“One day she left a sandwich for me in her mother’s mailbox,” Jirak said. “That’s when I knew she was a keeper.”
He and Vickie have been married for 37 years.
“We’ve lived here all of our lives, and sometimes they think I’m the postmaster,” Vickie joked. “They call me to tell Steve they are out of town or to hold the mail, or they ask if he is on the route or report that they haven’t gotten their mail.”
Sometimes, a patron leaves a note with a question for him. Jirak writes the answer on the note and returns it to the mailbox.
He has never had an accident on the route and has a certificate of achievement from the postal service for 30 years of safe driving.
He did admit that he has gotten stuck numerous times on country roads.
“That doesn’t happen very often anymore because I don’t take as many chances,” he said.
The biggest challenge is when he has to drive onto the edge of the road to put mail into a mailbox.
“If it’s icy, I might slide into the mailbox or nick my vehicle,” he said.
The biggest change he has seen in 30 years is self-adhesive stamps.
“I sometimes spent five minutes licking stamps,” he said. “Self-adhesive stamps are a blessing.”
Jirak has lost many rural deliveries because of deaths or farms being sold. After the Tampa post office closed in 2002, he began delivering mail there, which has made up for the losses, he said. He delivers to 210 mailboxes on a 135-mile route.
Carla Engler, the postal service employee at Ramona, said Jirak is awesome to work with.
“His customers come first. He goes out of his way all the time.”
Jirak said he would continue to carry the mail as long as he is physically able.
“If you love your job, you don’t want to quit,” he said. “I get paid to drive around and see what everybody is doing.”