The first thing you notice is the smile; wide, sweet and kind. Then comes the handshake which is almost always followed by a big hug. He knows your name right off the bat; if you have animals or pets, he knows their name too and will ask about them.
A Smile For Everyone
But that’s just how Jimmy is…. Jimmy Oswain is a fixture in Gulfport; he’s worked at Sweetbay Supermarket for 15 years and seems to know everyone in town. He has helped countless people out to their car with their groceries, bagged thousands of grocery items and has always maintained the sunny disposition he‘s so famous for. He is easily recognizable on his trusty bike, which he rides everywhere, unless it rains or when he cabs to the bowling alley where he bowls in a mixed league almost every night and frequently bowls 300.. Yes, 300, the perfect game… and often!
“Jimmy loves to bowl and he’s very good at it,” smiles his mother, Jackie. He lives with her in Gulfport.
“My dad taught me how to bowl,” Jimmy says. “I used to go with him all the time. I used to like to shoot pool at the Blinker, but it’s closed now.” Jimmy is a karaoke fan and often found at O’Maddy’s, singing Tony Bennett’s “San Francisco.”
“He’s actually pretty good,” his mom Jackie laughs. “And Jimmy is amazing when we watch TV. I’ll forget who a particular actor is and Jimmy will know his name and what shows they’ve been in. He never forgets a name; he’s always been like that!”
Jimmy has a particular routine that he follows; he goes to City Hall almost every day to see the city staff, including Stephanie Hafley, who works in Customer Service for the City and Lalanda Little, who is a staff assistant. Both work the front desks. As soon as Lalanda hears him say hello, she buzzes him in. They are part of his fan club and he stops by to chat before moving on to say hello to Sam Rivera in IT or to chat with Dan Carpenter about sports. Sometimes the guys take him to lunch. Miss Francine in records and dispatch is a good friend as well. When Lalanda Little locks the City Hall doors behind her every night, Jimmy will often come back and check on things to make sure everything is all right. She’s known him for two years and thinks he is really funny and sweet.
If he happens to miss a daily visit, the girls will ask him where he was. They miss him like that. Because he works at Sweetbay, Stephanie calls Jimmy her “in on the skinny” about when the new Sweetbay store near her house is going to open.
“The sign says 2011, but Jimmy told me he talked to the manager and it will be open by November,” she whispers a bit conspiratorially with a grin. He keeps her updated about the store’s progress. Jimmy also never arrives empty handed on Wednesdays; he brings the Sweetbay weekly sales circulars for everybody in the building.
Jimmy Oswain: Mr. Gulfport
The Gulfport PD’s Detective Pham had a hat made for Jimmy that says “Mr. Gulfport.” Officer Zach Mills shares Jimmy penchant for pro wrestling and took him to see Wrestle Mania. Sgt. Rob Burkhart, who knew Jimmy as a neighbor even before he became a police officer, has taken him to a Rays game. They’ve also gone to lunch together.
“I see him around the office and around town at least three-four times a week,” Burkhart says. “He probably knows everybody in Gulfport!” Jimmy says he considers Burkhart a great guy and a good detective. They’ve know each other for 12 years. Jimmy’s mom Jackie has nothing but high praise for Burkhart as well.
“Rob’s been a good friend to both of us,” she says. Jimmy is the middle boy of three brothers; Larry is the younger and Eddie is the eldest. Jimmy swears that growing up, Larry was the instigator for any goodnatured shenanigans that often happen among three boys in a household. But you never can tell, because all of the sudden, that big wide sweet smile turns on and a twinkle in his eyes signals that maybe, just maybe, he might have been a bit ornery too when he was growing up.
So when you see Jimmy riding around town on his bike or singing karaoke at O’Maddy’s, working at Sweetbay or bowling at Ten Pins, stop him and say hello. He will remember you for it and the next time he sees you, he’ll know your name. That’s what makes him an everyday hero in my book. After all, he IS “Mr. Gulfport”.