Jimmy Leroy, Mall Mascot
By Alexander Ragir
Jimmy LeRoy was there when the black-haired lady and her boyfriend left Bayshore mall and got on the bus. They stole a bra and pantyhose from Victoria’s Secret, and he saw it. “I knew something was wrong,” says Jimmy, scratching his head and dropping his hand over his face as if very embarrassed. “There was something very suspicious.” He first radioed it in, and then used his cell phone, given to him for emergencies by employees of the mall, to call the police. “I was brave. How’s that?” He stutters. “I was really brave. What about that?”
Or at least this is how Jimmy remembers it. Jimmy is 65 years old and developmentally disabled. His heart outweighs his mind the way his smile is easier to understand than what he says. His mother died when he was 60, so now he lives alone. He wears sneakers and flannel shirts and has clear blue eyes. Employees and shoppers at Bayshore Mall take care of him, and Jimmy takes care of them.
Jimmy’s favorite girl(s).
“I’ve known Jimmy since the store opened 17 years ago,” says Patti Aversa, owner of the family-owned women’s clothing store, Aversa. “He is the mall mascot.”
“Jimmy, you need to shave better and brush your hair.”
“I know,” Jimmy says with a sneaky look. “She’s like my sister.”
“He has lots of sisters, don’t let him fool you.”
Jimmy grabs her hand and gives it a kiss.
“That’s the closest he gets to kissing me. Why are you showing off, Jimmy?”
Jimmy nods and scratches his head nervously.
Jimmy keeps himself busy at the mall. He gets the employees coffee, watches the kiosk while the employees use the bathroom, rides his bike around the parking lot looking for people who look suspicious, escorts women who carry purses and, most of all, keeps people company.
“If I wasn’t here, the whole mall would collapse,” he says as he walks hastily toward Walgreen’s. “I have to be somewhere.”
Jimmy takes his patrolling seriously. He’s also a serious flirt.
“Hey Jimmy,” says a young brown-haired Alterra employee.
“Hey, hot lips,” says Jimmy.
“How are you?” she asks.
“Peachy, peachy, peachy,” says Jimmy, waving goodbye and moving on toward Walgreen’s. After greeting the cashiers, Jimmy walks up and down the middle of the store, looking down each aisle looking for shoplifters. He moves slowly and cautiously.
The 007 of Bayshore Mall.
Every day he patrols the parking lot, riding his bike up and down the aisles looking for anything unusual. Jimmy has four bikes, but for patrolling he likes to use Red Spirit or Green Dragon. Red Spirit is a Trek and “is tricky and can smell trouble.” Green Dragon has two mirrors and is good for scoping the parking lot he explains, as he points to his head and wrinkles his forehead. Blue Twister is the old one and is “a little putt-putt.” The Red Flyer is fast.
“What’s my name?” Jimmy asks the security guard.
“007. He’s my unofficial off-duty security officer, mobile bike patrol,” says the guard.
“That’s right,” says Jimmy, nodding excitedly.
Looking out for Jimmy.
Jimmy has been riding his bike around Milwaukee for more than two decades. For many years, he lived on 35th and Wisconsin, riding his bike to Bayshore Mall every day. He got robbed a few times on the ride, so he moved to the East Side a few years ago. His new apartment is closer to the mall, but he has not been visiting as consistently as usual, which concerns people there. Last year he broke his arm after he was hit by a bus while riding his bike down State Street. He needed surgery and they placed a steel rod in his bone. People at the mall make sure he comes in at least a couple of times a week so they can check up on him.
He always has a place to go on the holidays. Last Christmas, he went to his friend Lorry Kidman’s in Oconomowoc and celebrated with her family. She bought him a VCR. He watches Elvis movies and The 10 Commandments the most.
Jillian Olinger, an employee at the jewelry kiosk in the food court, hurt her arm. Jimmy feels bad because he knows what that is like. He brings her tiger balm and a soda. After that, he says, “If anyone asks for her, they talk to me first.”
She doesn’t understand what he said because of his speech impediment, but smiles politely.
“Bye,” he says.
“Bye, Jimmy,” she says.
Jimmy claims he has 25 girlfriends, and he tells each one that she is his favorite.
Sherry Meisenheimer, a friend from the Boston Store fragrance section, buys him pajamas, underwear, socks and movies.
“This is paradise,” he says, approaching Meisenheimer. “These girls are my favorite.”
A group of women gather to greet Jimmy.
“They’re pretty strict,” he says.
“We look out for Jimmy and he looks out for us,” says Meisenheimer. “We make sure he’s looking good.” And smelling good.
They call him at his house if they don’t see him for a few days, and tell him off if he rides his bike in the rain. Jimmy doesn’t seem to mind. He likes that they’re concerned. He loves being popular; it helps sooth the loneliness of old age. But that doesn’t keep him from being tough with people who cause a ruckus.
“If I see some fight,” he shakes his head and points over his shoulder with his thumb, “out the door. And stay out.”