EP letter carriers honored as heroes

Zach Berg
East Peoria Times-Courier
Pictured is letter carrier Cristy Perfetti with U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock. She was one of two letter carriers who were awarded for their efforts in saving a child from a sexual predator last year.

The abduction of a 12-year-old by a registered sex offender was stopped last year by a group effort of post office employees. Last week, those involved received one the highest honors letter carriers can receive: National Association of Letter Carrier’s Heroes of the Year Award.

Cristy Perfetti of Tremont and Steve Plunkett of North Pekin were flown to Washington, D.C., Sept. 8 to accept a Unit Citation. The award went to all those involved in helping the boy, not just the two letter carriers.

Since the NALC represents more than 280,000 members and looked at just about 200 cases of heroic letter carriers, it’s an honor that left both Perfetti and Plunkett floored.

“I thought that there was no way I’ll get picked as a national hero,” Plunkett said. “It’s an impressive list of accomplishments by the other letter carriers.”

Other people receiving the award this year pulled people out of burning cars and burning buildings.

“We all had no idea that the guy was a registered sex offender,” Perfetti said of Teddy L. Meyer, a homeless man. On the afternoon of May 10 of last year, Meyer was holding the arm of a crying 12-year-old boy in the parking lot just behind the East Peoria post office.

“The boy was trying to get me to notice him. The look on his face was indescribable,” Perfetti said. Meyer was walking the crying boy all around the back parking lot of the post office. When Meyer took the boy behind a shed that hid the two from sight, Perfetti sprang into action and called her supervisor, Stacie Pence-Bailey.

After Perfetti and Pence-Bailey approached the two, the boy shouted that Meyer wasn’t his father. Meyer then left the scene. Plunkett, who had just clocked out from his shift, followed Meyer, took pictures of him with his cellphone, got the license plate number of his car and tracked him while another post office employee called police.

“Across the street, we could see a couple police cars. All we could think was how happy we were they got the guy,” Plunkett said. “Not until the arrest was made did we realize how bad this guy was. The state’s attorney (Stewart Umholtz) basically said that we saved the kid’s life. That’s when it washed over me: I helped possibly save some kid’s life.”

After Meyer was arrested, he was sentenced to life in prison.

“But days later, after it all settled down, I just went on my own normal routine. Life didn’t change that much,” Perfetti said.

That was until this July, when Perfetti and Plunkett were notified by the NALC that they would receive an all-expenses paid four-day trip to Washington, D.C.

In the National Press Building, they accepted the award that credits all those who helped: Plunkett for tracking Meyer and taking photos, Perfetti for noticing and initially confronting Meyer, Pence-Bailey for her help organizing the effort, the clerk who placed the 911 call, everyone who played a role that day.

“It was a group effort, through and through. The right individuals where there at the right time,” Plunkett said. “I’m proud to be a part of that group.”

“We just went and did it. No one thought otherwise for a second,” Perfetti said. “If it was my kid or grandkid, I would have never lived it down. I’m sure we all felt the same.”