JACKMAN — Boyd Fortier was helping his wife, a contractor for the U.S. Postal Service, deliver mail a year ago when he noticed a man having trouble walking down his icy driveway to get to his mailbox.

Fortier, who has multiple sclerosis, helps his wife on the postal route, and he felt sympathy for Leo Boudreau, 87, who struggled daily to get his mail.

Fortier’s big heart resulted in a simple act of kindness that, when considered, wasn’t really all that simple.

Fortier wanted to deliver the Boudreaus’ mail straight to their house. To do so, he and wife Joanne got a special hardship delivery waiver from the U.S. Postal Service, which is granted rarely and only on a case-by-case basis.

“He was just barely getting along on the ice and snow, and he has a bad hip,” Fortier said of Boudreau. “It’s just hard for him to get around, so I said, ‘Mr. Boudreau, I’m going to bring your mail inside for you. There’s no need for you to fall down and nobody finds you. That way, you don’t have to take the risk in the elements.'”

Boudreau has lived in Jackman his entire life. He now has a prosthetic leg and walks with a cane. He said his wife, Marie, 83, is small and frail, so he was collecting the mail despite his own limitations.

“I don’t trust myself so much when I’m walking. And the ice is the worst,” Boudreau said. “It’s very nice of him to do that.”

Morning routine

Fortier, 44, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about four years ago. He started having pain in his legs that was so bad he would have to take breaks from walking or standing up. He thought it was just old age setting in, but finally he went to the doctor after the pain became more frequent. He was tested for Lyme disease, but it came back negative. However, an MRI revealed white lesions on Fortier’s neck and in his brain, a sign of multiple sclerosis.

Before the diagnosis, Fortier was a logger and trucker for about 20 years in the Jackman area. He was working at the town’s utility district at the time he was diagnosed, but he had to leave his job.

He and his wife have been married for 20 years, and she has delivered mail for the postal service for about 15 years. When he had to quit working, she suggested that he come with her on the mail route to get him out of the house.

He said he hates not being able to work and loathes sitting around the house. The pain in his legs has become more manageable with daily medication and shots that he gives himself, and he is able to drive the mail car while his wife sits in the passenger seat and puts the mail in mailboxes.

The couple have an SUV and it’s hard for her to reach across and put the mail into mailboxes, Boyd Fortier said.

They visit about 90 houses in Jackman, a part-time job for Joanne Fortier before she goes to her full-time job as an assistant manager at Mountainview Resort.

Six days a week, the Fortiers arrive at the Jackman post office around 9 a.m. Joanne Fortier sorts the mail — she is one of two carriers in town — and loads it into their car.

Meanwhile, Boyd delivers the Morning Sentinel, which arrives on the mail truck from Waterville, about 100 miles away, to the Mountain Country Supermarket, a grocery store next to the post office.

Inside, he sits and has a cup of coffee or two while he waits for his wife to sort the mail. He chats with other customers and the women who work in the store, all of whom know his name.

The Fortiers don’t have cellphones, but Boyd Fortier keeps a small walkie-talkie on the cafe table, which his wife uses to notify him when she’s ready to go. The minute the walkie-talkie buzzes, he jumps up and puts on his jacket over his postal service sweatshirt.

‘Not big, but important’

The Boudreaus live on Bartley Street in a small blue-and-white house. Steps lead up to the front door.

It was about a year ago that Boyd Fortier first noticed Boudreau having trouble walking down the driveway and offered to bring the mail inside.

The postal service doesn’t keep statistics on how many people are served through hardship deliveries, which are granted on a case-by-case basis to customers who may have trouble getting their mail, but the number is low, said Maureen Marion, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service.

Such deliveries are approved only as a last resort after every other possibility for delivery is explored, such as a friend or relative getting the mail, she said. They are usually temporary.

In the winter, the Boudreaus set a small stool inside their house where Fortier can leave the mail if the Boudreaus aren’t home. Usually he just leaves the mail on the stool, but if they’re home he might stop and visit with them.

Fortier said he didn’t know the Boudreaus before he started delivering their mail, but he doesn’t think it odd that they leave their door unlocked for him.

“It’s a small town. Everybody knows everybody. The postmaster knows them, and when I explained the situation to him, he said, ‘Do what you have to do.’ So we filled out the paperwork,” Fortier said.

“I feel that if I fell I would break a hip or anything easily,” Boudreau said. “I guess he took pity on me. It’s a good deed that he’s doing.”

One day when the mail was late getting to Jackman from Waterville because of snow and ice, Boyd Fortier shoveled the Boudreaus’ driveway.

“The first thing I knew, Boyd was out there doing it,” Marie Boudreau said. “I guess he knew the mail would be late.”

Fortier also makes a point of picking up a sales flier at a local grocery store each week for the Boudreaus because it’s something they look forward to, said Danielle Hale, a neighbor whose kitchen window looks into the Boudreaus’ front yard.

She noticed when Boyd Fortier started making the special deliveries and nominated him for a town award that recognizes good deeds.

“I saw last year that Mr. Boudreau had almost fallen while going to get the mail. It was a bad year for him,” she said. “Then he told me that Boyd was going to deliver the mail inside. I know he had to get special permission from his supervisor, and he did it all on his own just for them.”

The award was presented to Boyd Fortier the night before Thanksgiving at Jackman’s Night of Thanks event.

“The mail is an important thing for Mr. Boudreau,” Hale said. “The sales flier is really important to them, and so first thing Monday morning Boyd goes and picks one up and puts it in the mail for them.”

“It’s not a big thing, but it’s important, and it’s good for Boyd, too, because he has MS and it gives him something to look forward to every day,” she said. “It makes it safer for them, because Mr. Boudreau would go get the mail anyway. It’s just a nice thing all around.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm