Joel Hasken, a 12-year-old Elgin boy whose love for the mail and letter carriers won the heart of the local postal service, died late Friday, less than two months after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Hasken had long been a favorite among Elgin mail carriers. He used to follow local carrier Bruce Beu around as Beu delivered mail in Hasken's neighborhood.
"I can't say when it started, because it seemed like he always did it," said Joel's mother, Faith Hasken. "I had to tell Bruce not to give him the mail, because Joel always tried to take it. When he was old enough to wait on our porch, it was like a wrestling match between him and me to see who would get the mail."
Earlier in the day on Friday, a group of post office workers paid a special visit to their young fan, knowing that he was not doing well physically. Nearly a dozen mail trucks, fire and police vehicles stopped by his house to offer their support.
Elgin Postmaster Susan Meathe delivered the oath of office to Joel, making him an honorary letter carrier. Joel also received a certificate declaring Friday to be "Joel Hasken Day" at the Elgin post office.
Though not healthy enough to interact with the postal workers the way he usually did, Joel did manage to give a few smiles to everyone, Meathe said Saturday.
"It's so heartbreaking that he passed away just a short while later," she said. "I'm glad we were able to do that for him."
Faith Hasken said the gesture meant a lot to her and her husband, Lloyd.
"We didn't get the chance to have the kind of memories we would have liked with Joel," she said. "That gave us a great one."
Joel also loved riding his bike and laughing. Faith said he was a very active and social boy, who always said "good" when someone asked how he was.
Joel, who was autistic, started exhibiting symptoms of the cancer late last year.
Faith said that on Christmas Eve he started limping, and later complained of weakness on his left side.
On Friday, as the postal workers visited him and gave him cards, Faith could tell by that Joel didn't have much time left.
"It was just something I could tell by reading his face," she said.
Funeral arrangements were still being finalized on Saturday. Faith said she expected the wake to take place on Thursday evening at Grace Evangelical Church in Elgin, with the funeral the next morning.
Meathe said the postal service is planning fundraisers for Joel's family and a special procession for the day of his funeral.
"He's one of our own, now," she said.