YONKERS, N.Y. – Jess Buzzutto, the beloved city man known better as the Yonkers Leprechaun, died Wednesday morning after a battle with illness.
The 70-year-old retired computer programmer’s home on the corner of Nepperhan and Roberts avenues was well known to many in the city because of its elaborate holiday decorations and meticulous garden.
But it was the green clothing that always adorned Buzzutto’s 5-foot frame that gained him the title of the Yonkers Leprechaun and made him a legend in the city.
His sister, Eileen Logiudice, said Wednesday that Buzzutto embraced the moniker.
“People would walk down the street saying ‘Hey, there’s a leprechaun,’” she said. “So he started to play it up a little, dressing more and more Irish.”
After a while, Buzzutto began sporting nothing but green clothing while pinning shamrocks and leprechauns on his hat. He even posted an “I brake for leprechauns” bumper sticker on his car and hung a sign in his driveway, declaring the lot as “Parking for Leprechauns Only.”
And people loved it. As he worked in his garden, cars would honk their horns and neighbors would wave hello. Every time, Buzzutto would tip his hat and wave.
When children asked if he was a real leprechaun, Buzzutto would tell them he was “the realest leprechaun they would ever meet,” according to a 2010 New York Times article.
As the years went by, Buzzutto became a beloved figure in Yonkers. He even had a Facebook fan page made in his honor – the Yonkers leprechaun that lives on Roberts Aveee. – that gathered more than 10,000 likes.
“He was always friendly, always jolly,” longtime neighbor Mike Riley said. “He was just a really nice guy. If you ever needed anything, you could ask him.”
Family members said they, too, saw Buzzutto’s charitable spirit when he collected snow pants in winter for local shelters or visited a nursing home just to keep residents company.
But they also said he was a family man who enjoyed spending time with those close to him.
“Jess loved his family,” Logiudice said. “He kept the family together every Christmas, every holiday.”
As for that well-maintained garden and those holiday decorations – they were meant for the people of Yonkers, Logiudice said.
“He wanted to give everybody in Yonkers a gift and that was his gift,” she said.
By all indications, it was a gift that was well received. On Wednesday, as news of his passing spread, hundreds took to social media to share their memories of Yonkers’ Leprechaun.
“RIP Jess Buzzutto. May you find your treasure at the rainbow’s end,” Robin Marie Foti wrote on his Facebook fan page.
Others reminisced about the elaborate decorations he would put on his house on holidays like Halloween, Christmas, and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day.
“You gave so much to this city with your dedication to gardening and beautification,” Haifa Bint-Kadi wrote.