Originally published on the front page of the Belleville News-Democrat on Thursday Sept. 5, 1974.
Move over Jimmy Connors — tennis star — you’ve got company: Jimmy Connor — money finder and honesty hero.
Until last week, any letter addressed simply “Jimmy Connor, Collinsville, Illinois,” probably would have been delivered to the nearby Belleville home of tennis star Jimmy Connors.
But that was before 10-year-old Jimmy Connor found $13,000 in cash in a paper sack that had been lost by a Mexican couple on their way to Chicago for neurological treatment for their 17-month-old son.
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When Jimmy found the money in a ditch across the street from his home and gave it to his mother, she turned it over to authorities, who found the couple frantically rummaging through trash cans for their missing life savings.
Jimmy was left with just his dreams — and a fifth-grader whose bicycle is broken — dreams of a new one, a 20-inch, five-speed with a jet black frame and a contour-styled saddle.
Wednesday, Jimmy got that bike, compliments of several police organizations in the state who thought Jimmy should be rewarded for his honesty.
After discovering Jimmy wanted a new bike, the Illinois Police Association, the Mississippi Valley Division 8, and the Fraternal Order of Police passed the hat to purchase a new two-wheeler for Connor’s honest efforts. Jimmy also received an extra $20 in cash for accessories and tickets to a St. Louis Cardinal Baseball game.
The police weren’t the only ones who thought Jimmy should receive some recognition. Jeanine Connor, the blond-haired boy’s mother, said letters have been pouring in from all over the country following a UPI story about the boy’s brief fling with prosperity.
She said letters addressed to “Honest Jimmy Connor” or “To Jimmy Connor who found $13,000” found their way to the Connor home. One legislator from North Carolina told the boy he should grow up to be a lawyer or a politician to show that at least one honest man could be found in those professions.
For Jimmy, though, the bicycle was the reward he had hoped for. “He has looked and looked and looked at this particular bike,” his mother said as Jimmy wheeled around the parking lot of the Illinois State Police headquarters at Maryville Wednesday under the approving eye of well-wishers and the attention of local photographers.
Jimmy, wearing flared blue jeans with a “Keep on Truck’” patch and a safari jacket with a Boy Scout emblem had little to say as Sgt. James O. Stever presented him with the bicycle, an extra $20 for accessories and tickets to a St. Louis Cardinal baseball game. The boy kept his eyes riveted to his new bike.
Stever said the money was donated by the state police, the Illinois Police Association and the Fraternal Order of Police. He also acknowledged the many offers of help from area residents willing to help buy a bike for the young man who turned over the $13,000 in cash.
It was a fitting reward for a boy who, his mother said, “keeps his eyes down.”
“He’s always finding things,” she added, “little trinkets, old bottles, rusted tools. He’s always coming big-eyed — but never with anything like this.”