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Shadow partner

Letter carrier gets special assist

Letter Carrier Tom Tomsak and Andy Cooper are interviewed by Alexandra Gallo, a WNEP-TV reporter, this month.

The relationships that Postal Service employees develop with customers sometimes turn into friendships.

But Tom Tomsak, a Pittston, PA, letter carrier, stumbled into something more: a working partnership. And the unusual setup has made the local TV news.

Tomsak met Andy Cooper in 2005 on the first day of a new route. “He just walked right up and said, ‘Hi, I’m Andy,’” Tomsak said. “I told him my name and he just walked away. Then when I got to my next park point, there he was again.

“I didn’t know him then and I wasn’t sure what was going on.”

What was going on was that with that new route, Tomsak had gained an enthusiastic assistant.

The 40-year-old Cooper, who has a cognitive disability, has been a stalwart presence in Tomsak’s day ever since.

Cooper meets Tomsak on the first delivery; he knows he can’t touch the mail or get in the truck but is happy to follow along, providing companionship and the occasional gate-opening service.

“Come rain, or snow, or sleet, Andy is right there every day,” Tomsak said. “Even brings his own umbrella if it’s raining. He’s an icon in this town. All day long, people are shouting out to him and encouraging him as he walks along with me.”

WNEP-TV in Scranton, PA, recently devoted a segment of its evening news to the difference the two have made in each other’s lives.

“Tom was super-friendly to him, and he did his best to understand Andy, and he did really great with him,” Don Cooper, Andy’s father, said in the newscast. He went on to explain that his son’s love of structure is just one of the many ways he benefits from the friendship.

Customers on the route said that their children have grown up watching the delivering duo and it’s had a big effect on them.

Nineteen-year-old Matt Benton, who was a toddler when Tomsak first started, offers Andy a Diet Coke whenever he passes by.

“Everybody here on Grant Street loves Andy,” Matt’s mother, JoAnn Benton, said.

“You’re going to be on TV,” Tomsak gently teased Cooper at one point in the segment.

“Yeah, I’m gonna tell Ma that,” Cooper joked back.

At the end of the segment, Tomsak praised his shadow partner. “For the last 17 years it’s been a pleasure to have this good old man with me.”

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