Willie Parsons is “like the mayor of the 500 block of Clematis Street,” says neighbor Patty McNally.
He lives above O’Shea’s Irish Pub at 531 Clematis and comes down the stairs every morning and sits out front. That’s when the magic happens.
“It’s so funny to watch what happens,” McNally says. “Everybody says good morning to him. They wave from across the street. ‘Hey Willie,’ ‘Hey William.’ Old people, young people, working people. People driving by in cars will stop and wave. He’s this ever-present fixture.”
But there’s been no Willie on the block for a few days now. The elderly man has taken ill and has been at Good Samaritan Hospital, apparently with a lung ailment. After that, he’ll spend three or four days in rehabilitation and then return to Clematis.
Meanwhile, McNally thought she’d make a card and get passers-by to sign it. But she realized that Willie probably doesn’t know the names of all the people he talks with and greets every day. So she made an “I (heart) Willie” card with a photo of Willie smiling with O’Shea’s owner Rachel Costigan, and is is taking pictures of people on Clematis who know him holding the get well card. She’s assembling the photos together in one long accordion card for him.
A retired courthouse car-parker originally from Georgia, Willie has lived on the block for several years, since before Costigan bought the property.
“Everybody loves him,” McNally says. “He’s a real good example of what we should be like. He’s an older person, but he comes down those long stairs every single day and comes out and talks to people and he’s just friendly. He remembers you talked to him the day before and he’s like a magnet. That thing we what want from being in a city, an urban environment: We want to know the people on our street.”
(If you want to wish Willie well, comment on this story and attach photo of yourself.)