The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has an unofficial mayor: its longtime shoe shiner.
For more than 30 years, Albert Lexie has roamed the hospital’s halls, with a wide smile on his face and a tin of shoe wax in his hand.
Lexie was coy about his age, but proud to point out he’s spent almost every Tuesday and Thursday since 1981 at the hospital. He makes small talk, drops off small toys for the kids and offers $5 shoe shines.
“He says I’m his best buddy,” Dr. Joseph Carcillo told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s like having an old friend come every week for 20 years. He knows my family.”
Lexie loves his hospital -- and it shows. Over the last three decades, he’s helped raise $200,000 for the hospital's foundation. His main method? Donating all of his tip money.
Not everybody tips, but most tuck a couple of extra bucks his way. One Christmas, Lexie said, a doctor slipped him $50. As always, it went to the foundation.
“I haven’t raised that money in a year’s time,” Lexie said with a laugh. “But it feels good. I enjoy myself.”
After he hit the $200,000 mark, the hospital bought Lexie a purple cart, which he now wheels around the hospital as he makes his rounds.
“Everybody knows Albert. He’s sort of like the mayor,” Carcillo said, adding that he makes it a point to get a shoeshine each week.
“He says I’m one of his best customers,” Carcillo said. “He has little contests where he keeps track of how many tips you’ve given, and he’ll give out little candy bars or hard candies.”
One day a few years ago Carcillo saw that Lexie looked sad, so he asked him what was wrong.
“I realize I’m getting really old and my dream isn’t going to come true,” Carcillo recalled Lexie saying. So the doctor asked his friend what his dream was.
The shoe shiner’s response: “I wanted to have a book about me.”
Word spread, the foundation got to work, and last year it published “Albert’s Kids: The Heroic Work of Shining Shoes for Sick Children.”
And, as usual, Lexie has big dreams. He hopes to sell a million copies.