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SLAIN LETTER CARRIER CHOSEN AS 'NATIONAL HERO OF THE YEAR'

 SLAIN LETTER CARRIER CHOSEN AS 'NATIONAL HERO OF THE YEAR'
 /ADVANCE/ WASHINGTON, April 21 /PRNewswire/ -- A letter carrier in Southern California who was shot to death while attempting to thwart a bank holdup was named today as the "National Hero of the Year" by the National Association of Letter Carriers.
 NALC President Vincent R. Sombrotto will present the award posthumously to Richard L. Rice of Rialto, Calif., who delivered mail in Lakewood, Calif., and had been a mail carrier for 17 years.
 Rice's widow, Irene, will accept the award at a special ceremony in Washington on May 13.
 Also to be honored by the 307,000-member union at the ceremony will be three regional heroes, a National Humanitarian of the Year, and the winner of NALC's annual branch service award.
 "Letter carriers do much more than carry the mail," Sombrotto said. "These individuals have shown that carriers are integral parts of their communities who are able and willing to lend a helping hand in the time of need."
 Rice, who was a member of NALC Branch 1100 in Garden Grove, Calif., had gone to the Union Bank in Lakewood on Feb. 15, 1991, to cash his paycheck.
 Entering shortly after the bank opened, Rice was second in line at a teller's window when a gunman stuck a pistol in the side of the customer in front of him and demanded the money from a $500 check that had been cashed. The gunman then told the teller to empty the cash drawer. As the gunman wheeled and began to leave, Rice knocked him down with a strong blow. The downed gunman fired and shot Rice in the chest, before escaping.
 Rice died later in the day at a nearby hospital. The gunman, who was identified as the perpetrator of other holdups in the Long Beach area, is still at large.
 Rice, who was 47 years old at the time of his death, is survived by two sons and a stepson, in addition to his wife.
 Award winners besides Rice are:
 Regional Heroes of the Year
 EASTERN REGION -- Stephen M. Moore of Wilkesboro, N.C., who delivers mail in Statesville, N.C. and is a member of NALC Branch 935 in Statesville, rescued a three-year-old girl, Evelyn Parsons, from the savage jaws of a leopard at a circus in Wilkesboro. The leopard had slipped through a floor opening at the end of the act and pounced on the girl, beginning to bite her neck. Moore, 30, threw himself spread-eagle onto the leopard and pulled the animal off before circus personnel came to assist. The girl suffered wounds requiring six stitches.
 CENTRAL REGION -- Sandra J. Burnett of Villa Grove, Ill., a member of NALC Branch 671 in Champaign, Ill., whose quick-witted actions stalled an armed burglar robbing a home on her route in Champaign until police could arrive to make an arrest. When Burnett, 37, saw the man enter the home through a window, Burnett became suspicious and called police, then encountered the scofflaw as he emerged with a duffel bag, delaying his escape by tearfully asking him to return to the home to check mail that she may have left by mistake.
 WESTERN REGION -- Melody A. Scheidt and Jesse D. Fernandez, both of Fresno, Calif., members of NALC Branch 231 in Fresno, who saved the victim of a brutal stabbing and prevented further violence while awaiting police arrival. Scheidt, 30, was preparing to turn her Fresno route over to relief carrier Fernandez, 44, when the two men emerged from an apartment building. As one fell to the ground bleeding from chest and shoulder wounds, the other returned to the building. The knife-wielding assailant then threatened another intervener until again confronted by Fernandez.
 National Humanitarian of the Year
 Crispin Hoelscher of Cedar Park, Texas, a member of NALC Branch 181 in Austin, Texas, who delivers mail in Austin. Hoelscher, 44, and his wife, Margie, have adopted and raised 17 children with numerous medical and mental problems including retardation, hyperactivity, speech and vision difficulties, neurological damage, Down's syndrome, scoliosis, paralysis, cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
 Branch Service Award
 Hackensack, N.J., Branch 425, which engages in numerous charitable projects, dispersing aid through a variety of local social service agencies to needy people of the area. Included was a Christmas effort distributing four large mail hampers full of toys to the Salvation Army, a YMCA day care center and needy postal patrons.
 Judges for the award were Constance R. McAdam, national chair of Public Support Volunteers, American Red Cross; Lawrence W. Rogers, director of the Labor Department's Office of Worker's Compensation, and Assistant Chief LeRoy Oettinger of the Montgomery County (Md.) Department of Fire and Rescue Services.
 The NALC represents city delivery letter carriers of the U.S. Postal Service throughout the United States.
 -0- 4/22/92
 /CONTACT: Drew Von Bergen of the National Association of Letter Carriers, 202-662-2489/ CO: National Association of Letter Carriers ST: District of Columbia IN: SU:


TW -- DC006 -- 0517 04/21/92 10:29 EDT
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