LORAIN — The colorful, but troubled life of James Mielcarek, a firefighter, graffiti artist, standup comedian and bank robber ended Saturday.
Mielcarek, 51, died in his sleep, said relatives who said he suffered from diabetes. His death is believed to be from natural causes, but remains under investigation, said Dr. Stephen Evans, Lorain County coroner.
Known by his nickname, “Jimmy Mill,” Mielcarek wrote graffiti around Lorain that featured his name and the date when the numbers coincided such as “7/7/77 Jimmy Mill” and “9/9/99 Jimmy Mill.” Mielcarek said there was no “8/8/88 Jimmy Mill” because that was his first day as a firefighter.
Firefighting was a family tradition. Mielcarek’s uncle Alfred Damm was a former Lorain fire chief and William Damm, another uncle, was an assistant chief.
“He liked the excitement. He liked the pride they had in their work,” Marguerite Mielcarek said of her son’s firefighting career. “He liked accomplishing things.”
Mielcarek made shifts at the fire station go by faster with his self-deprecating humor.
“Jimmy did standup comedy every day,” said Fire Chief Tom Brown who joined the department the same year as Mielcarek. “He was good at making fun of himself.”
Mielcarek left the department in 1998 due to a medical disability and after leaving performed standup comedy in Lorain as well as Akron and the Cleveland area. But his troubles were no laughing matter.
There was an aggravated menacing conviction in 2001 and a 2007 conviction for bank robbery. While imprisoned after the robbery, someone tagged “Free Jimmy Mill” on a South Lorain mural.
Mielcarek attributed the clumsily committed 2007 robbery — Mielcarek signed his name on a note demanding money — to alcoholism. At his 2008 sentencing, Mielcarek said he had stopped drinking for 14 years before relapsing. Attorney Michael Duff, who represented Mielcarek, said his client was “stone drunk” when he committed the robbery.
Even at the sentencing, Mielcarek managed a quip telling Lorain Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi that he’d been clean and sober for a year and his urine was so clean, “you could wash windows with it.”
Mielcarek was sentenced to a year in prison. “You’re a drunk who committed a robbery, not a robber who got drunk,” Miraldi told him.
Mielcarek was convicted last year of persistent disorderly conduct, but his family said he had reformed. They recalled a generous, outgoing person who helped other alcoholics through Alcoholics Anonymous. Duff said Mielcarek had a “gigantic personality” and was a well known, beloved figure around Lorain. Duff remembered Mielcarek regularly referencing him as “the best lawyer in town” in a standup routine.
“I hired Mike Duff,” Mielcarek told the audience. “He told me if the judge gave me 30 days, he’d have me out in a month.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.