Under cloudy skies on July 4, two fire trucks drove through the narrow lanes of Dreamhill Estates, lights flashing. The fire engines were followed by Calvin Finch’s tractor pulling a flatbed carrying 12 residents, Don Wilson’s ’41 Cadillac Series 63, and a child-size cherry red Jeep Wrangler decked out with American flags, driven by 6-year-old Penny.

The procession was part of Dreamhill Estates’ annual Fourth of July parade, which, according to neighborhood lore, has been held since 1929. On Thursday morning, the parade featured a special guest.

Guillermo “Willie” Guzman served as the unofficial parade marshal. Dressed in his United States Postal Service uniform, Guzman was heralded as the “man of the hour,” by neighborhood association President Greg Gonzales.

“He’s well known around here,” Gonzales said.

Guzman has delivered mail to Dreamhill residents for the last five years and has worked as a mailman for more than three decades. He’s known as a local hero in Dreamhill after detecting gas leaks for neighbors and saving longtime resident Dorothy Wiede’s life.

In 2016, he heard a cry for help from Wiede’s garden while delivering a package. She had been tending to her flower bed when she collapsed, fracturing her arm and cracking her pelvis. After hearing cries for help, Guzman discovered her, called 911, and stayed with Wiede until emergency services arrived.

The letter sent to the United States Postal Service from Dorothy Wiede. Credit: Courtesy / Dorothy Wiede

“I thought ‘[If] I have to wait here all day for [my daughter] Sylvia to get home from work, I am going to die here,” Wiede said. “If it weren’t for Willie, I don’t know what would have happened.”

Wiede wrote a letter to USPS about Guzman’s heroism, and the Dreamhill postman was honored with a letter of commendation from the Postmaster General Heroes’ Program soon after. Guzman was again honored in Dreamhill Thursday with a prime spot in the patriotic parade, riding with his wife, Linda, in one of the first cars.

Dreamhill Estates is a tight-knit neighborhood in northwest San Antonio with about 100 houses. It’s the kind of place where neighbors know their mailman well and check in on one another frequently. Lots are large and wildlife is plentiful. It isn’t unusual to see deer meandering across the roadways under the shade of tall oak trees.

As the July Fourth delegation wound through the roads, Dreamhill’s canine residents ran the lengths of their fenced yards, barking their greetings at their patriotic neighbors.

“We’ve got more dogs in this neighborhood than people,” Gonzales joked.

Katy, a three-year-old German Shepherd, and the winner of the most patriotic dog competition, wagged her tail back in celebration.

Katy, who won the contest for most patriotic dog, walks in the parade. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

While many of the neighborhood’s residents have lived in the area for decades – Finch boasts that two of his neighbors are 100 years old and have lived nearby for much of their lives – newcomers feel the same sense of community.

Angela Hoikka’s family moved to Dreamhill Estates just a few weeks ago from Phoenix. She and seven of her nine kids plus the family dog Buddy joined neighbors to celebrate America’s birthday.

“I love living here so far,” Hoikka said. “Everyone has been as welcoming as can be.”

Looking around at the dozens of neighbors who had congregated for the celebratory parade procession, Hoikka smiled.

“It’s quite an event.”

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.

Laura Morales is a freshman studying journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a contributor to The Daily Texan.