Postal clerk Oree Gaither has a simple philosophy about calling in sick: He never does. He hasn't in about 42 years.
It's been so long since Gaither missed a day because he was ill, in fact, that he has accumulated more than 3,800 hours of sick time--more than two years' worth, the way the U.S. Postal Service figures things. He was recently honored as one of 15 postal workers who've been sick so infrequently, they have each reached at least the 3,000-hour plateau.
A resident of Inglewood, Gaither joined the Postal Service after he got out of the Army and has been there ever since. Currently he is assigned to an office that determines the eligibility for special mailing rates at the huge Terminal Annex station downtown.
Gaither is taciturn about his aversion to calling in sick. "I just haven't been sick; that's all," he said. "That's really all I can say."
When retirement does come, he'll be able to collect on all his sick leave--sort of a bonus for staying well.
But that isn't something that's on Gaither's mind much, either. He is self-consciously reluctant to volunteer his age. "I'm eligible now," he said of retirement, "but, you know, I'm not really thinking about it."
30 Honored for Essays
Thirty California youngsters--the majority of them from the Los Angeles area--have had their day in Sacramento where they were honored for winning a new essay contest run by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The contest encouraged schoolchildren to fantasize about the outdoors.
Each competitor submitted an essay based on the premise that the child was a quail that flew above the California state park system and described what it saw and what it had learned about the system as a result of its flight.
Entries were submitted in October and November with the winners traveling to the state capital last week. The contest was called: "Kids Can Do It All in California State Parks."
Two of three top winners were from Southern California--Jennifer Kedzior, 11, of Apple Valley, and Angela Tarantino, 10, of Camarillo.
Part of Kedzior's essay read as follows, according to a parks department spokesman:
"If these huge trees could talk, they would be like a history book because they have been around for so long.
"As I fly away from the amazing trees, I feel I have seen a kind of miracle . . . I will come and visit again real soon."
Determined Little Goalie
Little Zachary Williams played goalie in the intramural soccer program at his rural elementary school near Madera, Calif., last year. That might not seem so unusual except that because of a genetic defect the 7-year-old was born without legs and knees and gets around on artificial limbs.
Carles Beckett, principal of the Dixieland School--part of the Madera Unified School District--says he watched with interest as the little boy let determination take the place of natural legs.
Beckett said the boy's parents, Barbara and Steve, had consistently encouraged their son to try to do anything he feels he wants to do. "He did fine," said Beckett of Zachary's efforts on the soccer field during the October-November season. As a goalie, the youngster is the only member of a soccer team permitted to use his hands, but he still must dispose of a ball hit toward him once he stops it. He does so by passing it off to a teammate who kicks it for him.
"He does it through determination," Beckett said. "It's unbelievable the amount of determination he has. A lot of heart, too. He loves it."