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Retired Sewickley Valley mail carrier making new kind of delivery

| Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, 1:18 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Jimmy Maslanka of Bellevue, a Master Gardener, waters a hanging basket along Beaver Street in Sewickley as the sun begins to rise Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. The retired mail carrier waters 35 hanging baskets and a few planters in the community three times a week. 'It's just like delivering the mail. There's a schedule and a set way to do things,' he said.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Jimmy Maslanka of Bellevue crosses Beaver Street in Sewickley on his tricycle carrying a 20-gallon water tank to water the borough's hanging baskets as the sun begins to rise Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. The retired mail carrier waters 35 hanging baskets and a few planters in the community three times a week. He begins early—around 5:15 a.m.—to avoid traffic and cars parked on the streets where the baskets hang.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Jimmy Maslanka of Bellevue, a Master Gardener, waters a hanging basket along Beaver Street in Sewickley as the sun begins to rise Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. The retired mail carrier waters 35 hanging baskets and a few planters in the community three times a week.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Jimmy Maslanka of Bellevue steers his tricycle carrying a 20-gallon water tank to water the borough's hanging baskets along Beaver Street in Sewickley as the sun begins to rise Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. The retired mail carrier waters 35 hanging baskets and a few planters in the community three times a week. He begins early—around 5:15 a.m.—to avoid traffic and cars parked on the streets where the baskets hang.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Jimmy Maslanka of Bellevue, a Master Gardener, waters a planter at Wolcott Park in Sewickley on Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. The retired mail carrier waters 35 hanging baskets and a few planters in the community three times a week.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Jimmy Maslanka of Bellevue, a Master Gardener, waters hanging baskets in the Division Street parking lot in Sewickley as the sun begins to rise Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. The retired mail carrier waters 35 hanging baskets and a few planters in the community three times a week.

Before retiring about five years ago, Jimmy Maslanka delivered mail in the Sewickley Valley for 32 years.

This summer, he again is making deliveries in the area ­— but of a different kind.

Maslanka, 61, waters plants in the hanging baskets in Sewickley's business district.

Three days a week, Maslanka rides a tricycle that pulls a cart with a 20-gallon water tank on it. He said he “fashioned a wand” from a device used to clean gutters that gets the water to the baskets above him from the hose attached to the tank.

“It's just like delivering mail,” Maslanka said. “There's a schedule and a set way to do things.”

He starts his route, which takes almost three hours to complete, at 5:15 a.m. It includes 35 hanging baskets, plus two planters at the borough building, and he has to refill the water tank four or five times, Maslanka said.

Along the way, Maslanka runs into old friends from his mail routes. At various times, he delivered mail in Sewickley, Edgeworth, Haysville, Glenfield and Glen Osborne.

“I got to know a lot of people from the Sewickley area,” he said. “I kind of bonded with the people.”

Maslanka, who lives in Bellevue and retired from the U.S. Postal Service, said he could have transferred to a post office closer to home but didn't because he liked the people in the Sewickley area so much.

“A lot of people that I know, when they drive by and see me, they beep,” he said.

Maslanka also is making new friends.

“I'm getting that hand wave from everyone,” he said.

The tricycle can be ridden on the street or the sidewalk, as needed. Maslanka said.

No matter where he is riding, he said, he follows these rules: “Be safe. Be courteous. Be respectful.”

As a result, Maslanka said, he has not had issues with drivers or pedestrians.

Maslanka became a Master Gardener by completing the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Master Gardener Program, which consists of education and garden-related community service.

He said he has a passion for gardening.

“There's peace of mind. You can relax,” he said.

Maslanka said he has a basic garden at home and a greenhouse he got from a woman on one of his mail routes who gave it to him in exchange for some work in her yard.

He also became a beekeeper as a result of seeing hives at the home of someone else on one of his mail routes, he said.

Maslanka's volunteer gigs have included the garden at the Andrew Bayne Memorial Library in Bellevue and the Renziehausen Park Rose Garden in McKeesport.

Perhaps his favorite volunteer effort was working this year with students from Sewickley Academy in Edgeworth who laid mulch at Mary Roberts Rinehart Nature Park in Glen Osborne.

“I never had such a good time,” he said.

Maslanka said he was impressed by how hard the students worked.

“They had 50 yards of mulch moved in less than four hours,” he said.

Maslanka said he is getting a stipend for watering the hanging baskets this summer but also enjoys doing it because he loves Sewickley.

Kevin Flannery, Sewickley's borough manager, said the purchase and maintenance of the hanging baskets is a project funded jointly by the borough and the Sewickley Civic Garden Council. He said the borough is contributing $3,900 toward the project this year.

The baskets bring color and a “summery feel” to the community, Flannery said.

“They do add to the walkability of the business district,” he said.

The plants in the hanging baskets come from Sewickley Creek Greenhouses in Franklin Park, Maslanka said, and adults with disabilities who work there did the planting.

Peggy Standish, who represents the Trowel and Error Garden Club on the garden council, has known Maslanka for many years. He used to be her mail carrier, and she told him about the Master Gardener Program.

“He's very hard working. He is terribly kind and considerate,” she said. “There aren't enough good adjectives to describe him. He's knowledgeable.”

Standish also said Maslanka has an unusual way of knowing people: “He's a very personable person, and he knows many, many people in Sewickley, but he knows them by their street address, not their face, because he was a postman for many years.”

Madelyn Dinnerstein is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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