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MILESTONE FOR CARRIER: RETIREMENT

Nobody knows the miles Roy Loertscher's seen, but they must number a million or two.

Loertscher, who turned 82 in April, is finally retiring as the Deseret News distributer for the Heber Valley, having delivered untold numbers of papers since just after World War II. He carried the mail for about half that time, too.His post as purveyor of information made him into a local institution of sorts, and an acquaintance of all.

Times have changed, however, for Loertscher and his wife, Dorothy, who nowadays watch Midway grow steadily from their house, which itself is locally famous for its eccentricities.

The Loertschers paid $2,500 for their 11/3 acres a half-century ago and note that the price of a mere half acre in the area is better than 10 times that today. Such values are a mixed blessing for longtime residents, who find themselves sitting on valuable real estate but priced out of the market should they wish to expand.

"The young people who were born and raised here can't live here anymore because they can't afford a lot," says Loertscher.

Like many Midway inhabitants, Loertscher is of Teutonic heritage, and his roots are typical. His father, a Mormon convert from a German-speaking sector of Switzerland, met his mother, an immigrant from Holland, at a sacrament meeting in Ogden.

Newlyweds when they moved to Midway in 1947, the Loertschers on Jan. 1, 1948, started delivering the News to the west side of Midway. Eventually Loertscher became distributer for the entire county, which is not what you'd call a big market (four carriers serve about 468 subscribers). But it's spread out and a tough drive on some winter days.

Their home - a mazelike abode built in stages over the years to accommodate 12 children - is something of an attraction, partly because of a back yard that features a 48-foot-high swing set and the old fire escape from the former Wasatch County High School.

But the interior is what's really different, serving as a substantial if disorganized museum, containing room upon room of memorabilia collected over the years - a genealogy library, bar stools culled from the old Hotel Utah, the trumpet Loertscher's dad played in Salt Lake City's Nibley Park Band, one of RCA's first color television sets and perhaps the earliest version ever made of a combination record player-radio. Other oddities are the "ball room," so named for the basketball hoop it sports; a huge calendar marking the birthdays of the Loertschers' 150 or so children, grandchildren and in-laws; an upstairs bunkhouse ("We call this the dormitory."), an apartment for missionaries and a kitchen with short counters to accommodate the diminutive stature of Dorothy Loertscher.

The quirky residence has been officially recognized - in a way.

"I had a guy come out to appraise it," says Loertscher, "and he looked around for an hour and said, `I can't appraise it 'cause I don't know of anything to compare it with.' "