CLEARWATER — Ray Hill was about to move on to the next house. The 26-year-old city meter reader still had half his route left, and he had been waiting at the front door for nearly five minutes.
Helen Saul, 80, had left him waiting while she went to bring her nephew's dog inside, because the black Labrador retriever could be rambunctious with strangers.
"I thought maybe she'd gotten sidetracked or forgotten about me," Hill said.
But what happened next earned him the Clearwater Employee of the Month award for July.
Hill heard a faint cry for help coming from the back yard, so he ran around the house and scaled the 8-foot-tall wooden fence.
There, he saw Saul hunched over the side of the swimming pool, clutching her sister. The 70-year-old woman, a non-swimmer who suffers from dementia, had fallen into the water.
Saul was about to lose her grip on her sister's arm when Hill leaped over the fence.
"Thank God he was there. It was an absolute miracle," she said.
Together, Saul and Hill were able to pull the woman from the water. They took her inside and helped her dry off. She did not require medical attention, Saul said.
Of his quick response, Hill said, "To be honest, the adrenaline just kicked in. I knew I had to get to her."
After the rescue, Hill went to Saul's front yard to regain his composure.
"Once I stopped shaking, I just laid in the grass for a few minutes," he said.
Then he went back to work. He finished the rest of his 3-mile route, which ran along Belcher Road in Clearwater.
Hill, who began working for the city last July, never told his bosses at the Customer Service Department about the May 16 rescue. Instead, Saul let them know.
"I called almost immediately. I wanted to make sure that young man got recognized for saving my sister," she said.
Hill received an engraved desk clock and an extra day of paid vacation. He plans to use the day off for his wedding in October, he said.
"It was neat (to win the award), but I did what I think anybody would," Hill said. "I'm just glad she was okay."
Matt McKinney can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4156. Follow @Mmckinne17 on Twitter. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.