Vandergrift paper carrier sounds alarm, lauded as hero

| Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When David Terrill Jr. delivered the Sunday Valley News Dispatch to Della Johns in May, he noticed recent newspapers lying there unopened.

He finished his Vandergrift delivery route, then came back to collect her subscription payment about 10:30 a.m. the same day. No one answered, despite the storm door being open, and Terrill remembered it also was open Saturday.

"It just kind of set off alarms," said Terrill, a Vandergrift resident.

So he called in to the house to get his 81-year-old customer's attention, and she immediately yelled back, saying she needed help.

He entered and found Johns lying at the foot of her stove.

A pot of potatoes was burning on the stove top.

Terrill called 911 and waited for help to arrive. He said Johns complained of pain in the leg, hip and back, and couldn't get up off the floor.

Johns' family said they had checked on her Friday when she had a previous fall. They planned to check on her again Sunday, Terrill said, but she had a second fall Friday after they left.

Linda Baer, Johns' daughter-in-law, said she assumes Johns had been on the floor since Friday evening.

Baer said Terrill was able to get help for Johns eight hours before someone in the family could have been there to check on her.

She's glad he noticed about two days' worth of papers piling up.

"We're very grateful for him," Baer said.

Terrill said it was "just the right thing to do, that's all."

"It wasn't an act of heroism," he said. "It wasn't anything special."

Baer, of Spring Church, Kiski Township, said she had a stroke in March and is unable to care for her mother-in-law, so Johns is at West Haven Nursing Home for therapy.

Terrill, 33, who has been a newspaper carrier for three months, said he has two routes through Vandergrift.

He's being recommended by the Valley News Dispatch's circulation department for a V.T. Curtis Award. It is presented by the Inter-State Circulation Managers' Association for outstanding service by a newspaper carrier.

Tina Molinaro, district circulation manager at the Valley News Dispatch, said Terrill's action meant a lot, and he went "above and beyond what is expected."

"In my eyes," Molinaro said, "it was heroic."

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