Tribune-Review carrier wins state contest
One February morning, James Emery Jr. was finishing his Sunday newspaper delivery route during a snowstorm when his car slid off the road.
Emery never imagined that he would have a 465-customer newspaper route as a 51-year-old. He took the job because he needed extra money to buy a new truck, which was now hanging over the side of the road.
"I couldn't get out my side of the door, so I fell into my passenger door, and my feet were dangling, and I jumped out," said Emery of Hempfield. "I got tired of waiting for someone (from management) to show up, and I said, 'I gotta do something.' So I started walking and finished my route on foot."
That dedication helped Emery win first place as the adult Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Carrier of the Year. Emery received $300, an award certificate and registration in the national competition.
"I was always thinking, 'Someone from a big city will probably win this,'" Emery said. "But it was worth my while, and I was surprised when I found out I won."
Emery has delivered the Tribune-Review for more than two years. He said his childhood dabblings in the carrier business led him to apply for the job. As a kid, he would help his father with his route and his aunt with hers. He often rushed to finish his homework to help one of his friends deliver newspapers.
Competing carriers are judged on factors such as size and difficulty of route, level of community involvement, seniority and customer recommendation letters.
"For all the years we have had the Tribune-Review delivered to our home, James (has) been by far the very best carrier," wrote the Zemba family. "He is a hardworking, conscientious and thoughtful newspaper carrier. We, as his customers, appreciate his going above and beyond to do his job."
Trib subscriber Cynthia Cuccerio recalled mornings when her newspaper was missing, not by Emery's fault, but as a consequence of living in an apartment building. She said Emery worked to find an alternate delivery location and continued checking to be sure she received her paper.
"It was so thoughtful and showed that James cares for us as people and as well as customers," Cuccerio wrote. "As far as I am concerned, James is already my Newscarrier of the Year."
About a year ago, Emery was about 50 papers short of finishing his deliveries when his car was struck by a drunken driver. He was slightly injured and had to climb out of his car. He called his manager and said he wanted to finish the route. His replacement would not let him.
"She wouldn't let me do it. She thought I was crazy," Emery said. "She said, 'That guy is dedicated.'"
Regional circulation manager Joseph Teta said Emery's work ethic and community involvement made him an easy pick for the local competition.
"He's so reliable and dedicated. He was the obvious choice," Teta said. "He's a really good guy, a stand-up individual."
Emery, a Marine Corps veteran, has been a firefighter for more than 30 years and president of the Fireman's Softball League for 20 years. He raises chickens and koi and enjoys doing landscaping projects.
Emery's first-place win pushed him into the national competition with the Inter-State Circulation Managers' Association, which will announce the national winner in late September. If he wins, he will receive $250, a plaque and an award certificate.
"I'm the first person (customers) see in the morning, and hopefully, I start their day with a smile," Emery said.