This story originally was published on September 10, 2012.
Letter carrier John Dick, of Royal Oak, remembers meeting Gregg Glowacz along his route more than seven years ago.
Glowacz, a former director for ambulatory services at Beaumont Hospital, was in his Royal Oak yard when Dick delivered his mail and asked him about his motorcycle. The two men started shooting the breeze and discovered they had a lot in common. They bonded, Dick said.
"Gregg's a very friendly guy. We always chatted and then he had an aneurysm (in 2007) that left him a quadriplegic. He had everything going for him - a great job, a great house and a great wife."
Gregg's wife of 27 years, Vicki Glowacz, remembers the day her world changed when she found her husband on the floor in pain.
"He said he felt like he was shot in the head."
A brain aneurysm and two strokes took away Gregg's speech and motor skills, but Dick refused to stop trying to talk to his friend or deliver the Glowaczes mail.
"Gregg was in the hospital for seven months and John would visit him all the time," said Vicki, a mammography technician at Beaumont Hospital. "He would call us and bring cards and letters for Gregg to the hospital."
That's how letter carriers in his union roll, Dick said.
"I look at my job as being part of the community, and if someone needs my help, I am going to try to give them great service," Dick said. "I once had an 89-year-old women on my route that fell and broke her hip. She was trying to step on an ant and lost her balance. She waited for me to come. I heard her shouting for me when I got to her house. She told me, 'I knew you would come.'"
Vicki tells the story of how she told Dick neighbors were getting together for drinks on the first Christmas Eve after Gregg's brain aneurysm.
"He showed up dressed in a Santa suit," Vicki said laughing. "None of the neighbors knew it was him. Some of them were freaking out that Santa seemed to know everybody's name and where they lived!"
The best laid plans often go astray
Dick has moved on to a new route, but he continues to get together with the Glowaczes. In March, the two men began planning a benefit poker run where participants on motorcycles make four stops - drawing cards at each stop - with the winner of the best hand getting a prize.
"Gregg has been very active in the planning," Dick said. "Even though he can't speak, he's able to communicate using glasses with a special laser that allow him to spell things out. He grew up in Hamtramck and he wanted the Polish Muslims to perform at the last stop. We asked them at the Dream Cruise and they agreed to do it."
The Hell to Hamtramck Benefit Poker Run begins Sunday at Motorcity Harley Davidson, in Farmington Hills, and ends at Kelly's Bar, in Hamtramck, with stops between in Hell and New Hudson.
After months of planning, all the pieces of the benefit are starting to come together. Dick was trying to figure out how Gregg could participate in a sidecar when he got the news that his friend was back in the hospital.
"He has pneumonia and won't be able to make it."
Dick is heartbroken, but always the optimist, he has a Plan B.
"We're going to videotape the whole thing and have everyone send him get well wishes," Dick said from Gregg's hospital room at Beaumont Hospital on Friday night.
As for being a hero, Dick said people should read The Postal Record, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) monthly magazine.
"It's filled with stories from across the country about letter carriers that help people - like pulling people out of fires," said Dick, a NALC Branch 3126 officer. "People seem to like to bash unions these days, but we're out here in the community with a protective eye over neighborhoods. It's in my DNA to serve people."
If you go
- What: Hell to Hamtramck Poker Run
- When: Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Start: Motorcity Harley Davidson, located at 34900 Grand River, Farmington Hills
- Last stop: Kelly's Bar, located at 2403 Holbrook St., Hamtramck
- Cost: $25; $10 cover for those who just want to see the Polish Muslims play at Kelly's Bar
- Need more information? Contact John Dick at 248-808-2206
For those who can't attend the benefit but would still like to send a donation, checks made to "Friends of Gregg Glowacz" can be sent to P.O. Box 1864, Royal Oak, MI 48068.