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Published: Friday, 10/22/2004

Navy career man later carried letters

James L. Pasternak, 81, who made a career of the Navy after joining to escape the Depression in East Toledo and who later was a letter carrier in the Birmingham neighborhood where he grew up, died Tuesday of a heart attack in his West Toledo home.

After his retirement in 1961 as a Navy chief petty officer, he became a letter carrier for 30 years. For much of his career, he worked out of Station A on Second Street in East Toledo and had a route in Birmingham.

"He liked the routine, and he liked the walking," niece Carol LaBounty said.

Mr. Pasternak, while on duty, met veteran letter carrier Ruth Worden in 1964. They found they got along. Two years later, in true letter carrier fashion, he braved the weather and proposed marriage to her in the rain at Adams and Huron streets.

"That was the love of his life," Mrs. LaBounty said.

His wife died last year.

Mr. Pasternak grew up in Birmingham, where his parents settled after coming from Hungary about 1910. He was a 1941 graduate of Waite High School and made an early career decision.

"He went into the Navy," Mrs. LaBounty said. "He didn't even go to his graduation ceremony."

His motivation was basic: The Navy would feed, house, and clothe him.

"Remember, this is a Depression kid," cousin Robert Rajner said.

Mrs. LaBounty added: "There were no jobs here."

Mr. Pasternak was in the Pacific Theater during World War II, mostly as a chief boatswain's mate aboard tankers and supply vessels.

After the war, he was stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Norfolk, Va. He became a crew member of the USS Nespelen, which in 1955 was assigned to supply fuel to the Navy in Antarctica, part of Operation Deepfreeze during the International Geophysical Year.

His last duty was instructing recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago.

Mr. Pasternak liked Sousa marches and martial music. He read military history and was supportive of Democratic candidates. He liked to meet new people, family members said.

"He was a big optimist," Mrs. LaBounty said.

Surviving are his sister, Eleanor Rajner, and brother, Joseph.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today in the Walter Mortuary.

The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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