Driver hits downtown mailman

Postal carrier in stable condition after collision at Seventh and New Hampshire

Lawrence’s sole walking-only postman – who rarely, if ever, stepped foot inside a mail truck – was struck Thursday morning while crossing a downtown street.

Lawrence mail carrier Jerry Totten, 56, was hit by a truck while crossing Seventh Street on the east side of New Hampshire Street. Totten has delivered mail on foot downtown for the past 12 years.

“He’s a fixture here in the downtown area,” said Richard Watkins, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service. “We’re keeping him in our prayers, obviously.”

The truck, driven by Gale T. Willey, 56, of Lawrence, hit Totten while the postal worker was walking south toward Borders Books and Music. Willey was turning left from New Hampshire onto Seventh Street.

Lawrence police Sgt. Paul Fellers said the southbound green light gave Totten the right of way, but police were continuing to investigate the accident.

Totten was taken by ambulance to Watson Park at Sixth and Kentucky streets, where he was flown by helicopter to Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, Kan. He remained in stable condition Thursday night. Over the years, the 36-year post office veteran has made dear friends of shop owners and managers downtown – delivering the morning mail with a flair as unique as downtown itself, retailers said.

Borders manager Ron Wilson said Totten made the trek from the back of the store to the front every day without fail, greeting employees with a smile to match the flash of his uniform’s barrage of buttons and pins.

“It made him stand out from the other postmen,” Wilson said. “He fit in with the individual store owners.”

Brian Harris, owner of video game salon Game Guy, 7 E. Seventh St., said he would always notice Totten’s buttons but was never quick enough to ask about them.

“He was out the door,” Harris said. “He was a real drop-and-go guy. He’s got a lot of mail to carry.”

With Totten’s condition apparently less severe than some may have originally thought, Watkins said his co-workers hope that he’ll be back carrying all that mail sooner than later.