GENEVA – Mail carrier Steve Hicks didn’t live along his Geneva route, but that didn’t make him any less of a neighborhood fixture.
He knew the residents’ names. He knew their dogs’ names. He befriended a 6-year-old boy who called him Mr. Steve. He offered to assist with yard work. He was, as one Woodward Avenue resident said, family.
“We loved him,” Padma Lacy said. “We were his family. He was part of our family.”
Thursday, she and others on his route paid their respects as the late mail carrier’s colleagues sacrificed their lunch break to drive his route, which included the streets between the Fox River and East Side Drive.
“I thank God we were allowed the chance to do this,” Geneva mail carrier Michael Melchor said. “He truly deserved it.”
The Geneva Police Department provided a police escort for the procession. Cmdr. Eric Passarelli wrote in an email that it is an honor and privilege to provide funeral-related escorts to the community.
“We understand that it is a time of great difficulty for the families and friends affected,” he wrote. “We hope that these escorts help provide some solace to the family. It is commonly requested that we utilize a route that travels past the residence, place of employment, or other place of significance to the person who has passed away. We make every effort to honor these requests.”
A military veteran, Hicks worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 17 years, the last 14 of which were spent on the route the procession followed, Melchor said, adding his colleague retired three weeks ago.
Hicks – whose death recently was discovered through a wellness check prompted by his mail carrier in Aurora – was known as Big Steve and Cool Breeze, his colleagues said.
They and residents described him as a friendly, good man who cared deeply for his customers.
“His heart matched his height,” Lacy said.
The Buss family was among many residents who displayed flags Thursday in honor of Hicks.
Lisa and Curt Buss watched with their daughters, 3-year-old Sophie and 7-month-old Julia, as the trucks passed their house.
“He was a fixture in the neighborhood,” Lisa Buss said.
She said she felt bad that her 6-year-old son, Evan, missed the tribute because he often would greet Hicks.
“He’ll miss his Mr. Steve,” she said.