Advertisement
  1. News

'The Pillow Lady', a dedicated Bucs fan, feted by team in style

Jackie Riles wipes away happy tears as Buccaneers co-chairman Bryan Glazer presents her with a jersey Friday. For years, Riles has made pillows for team members and has sat outside the stadium cheering them on during every game.
Published Aug. 25, 2012

TAMPA

For 35 years, Jackie Riles has caught buses from her Lowry Park neighborhood to cheer on her Tampa Bay Buccaneers on game days.

She'd sit outside the stadium, greet the team staff and players and hand out homemade crocheted pillows. But she couldn't afford tickets inside because she lives on a fixed income.

Friday night Riles' son pushed her wheelchair into Raymond James Stadium down the same tunnel the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rushed out of moments later.

Riles and her son, Pat, watched Friday's preseason game in high style -— sitting in an upper suite with close friends made during her 35 years as the Bucs' No. 1 fan.

Known as "The Pillow Lady," Riles estimates that she has made over 4,000 hand-crocheted pillows for Bucs staff, players, friends and celebrities.

"Somebody told me long ago that these pillows were a waste of money and wouldn't amount to a hill of beans," Riles said as she surveyed her skybox packed with VIPs.

On Monday, Riles turns 75. The team celebrated the occasion by throwing her a party, complete with a sideline presentation of a framed personalized jersey with her name and the number 75. The tears began immediately.

"I didn't know you were going to do all this," Riles said.

Bryan Glazer, co-chairman of the franchise, presented the jersey with a hug and a smile.

"She's been here ever since I have," Glazer said. "She is so supportive of the team."

Riles appears in one of the few pictures hanging in Glazer's office.

"She cried when I told her about it," he said. "She's got a place on the wall and a place in my heart."

In the upper suite, Riles' friends gathered to celebrate her life.

"Can you imagine spending years sitting outside of the stadium, rain, cold, whatever, and just listening to what is going on inside?" said Linda McClintock-Greco, 56, who met Riles through her husband, former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, 17 years ago. "She has given more love than she can ever get back."

Former Mayor Greco agrees.

"I've known Jackie for at least 30 years," Greco said. "Most of her life has been dedicated to this team."

And along the way, she has made a lot of friends.

When she sat on the sideline during the pregame, players waved as they headed back into the tunnel. Former player Dave Green said that's because Jackie Riles is special.

"When I was leaving the stadium, she was there yelling, 'Dave Green!' I felt 10 feet tall and bulletproof because I had the attention of the real fan," he told Riles during her party.

In the suite, fellow fans Albert and Teresa Perry remembered the good times they have shared supporting the Bucs.

Albert Perry used to drive a bus for the team.

"At 2 a.m. she would be outside the stadium waiting for the team to hand out pillows," Perry said. "Even now, on limited income, she collects bottles and cans to pay for yarn to make pillows."

Her dedication has not gone unnoticed.

A few weeks ago her wheelchair fell apart.

"I told them I couldn't go to the training camp," Riles said.

Bucs vice president of business administration Brian Ford stepped in. The team helped her get a new chair, and at training camp Riles met Phil Alessi Sr., owner of Alessi Bakery.

He and his wife, Lynda, also made an appearance at the party with a special cake in tow replete with a pirate flag and miniature helmet.

"We have only met twice," Alessi said. "But we wanted to come and bring her a cake."

As the box filled up with nearly 20 well-wishers, Riles held court talking about the celebrities still on her wish list.

"I want to meet LL Cool J," she laughed. "I just love him so much."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A view of the Perseid meteor shower in 2013.  Scientists are predicting a rare meteor outburst this week that may be brief but incredibly intense. [Associated Press]
    Hundreds of shooting stars may be visible as Earth plows through the dusty tail of an unidentified comet.
  2. Riley Kinn pauses during an interview in Fostoria, Ohio, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. Although Kinn was assured by the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, that he'd have the chance to share his story with an independent review board, he never got the opportunity. After the diocese sent a retired police detective to interview him, who took names of others who could back his account, he learned by letter that the board had found his allegations “unsubstantiated.” Toledo Diocese spokeswoman Kelly Donaghy said the review board doesn’t promise victims they can testify, but examines each case in turn. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) PAUL SANCYA  |  AP
    Review boards appointed by bishops and operating in secrecy have routinely undermined sex abuse claims from victims, shielded accused priests and helped the church avoid payouts.
  3. Zum driver Stacey Patrick, right, waves goodbye to student Saahas Kohli, left, and his mother, Alpa Kohli, obscured behind her son, as he returns home from school in Saratoga, Calif. A handful of ride-hailing companies have surfaced that allow parents to order rides, and in some cases childcare, for children using smartphone apps. The promise is alluring at a time when children are expected to accomplish a dizzying array of extracurricular activities and the boundaries between work and home have blurred. But the companies face hurdles convincing parents that a stranger hired by a ride-hailing company is trustworthy enough to ferry their most precious passengers. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) BEN MARGOT  |  AP
    Ride-hailing companies resolve a dilemma many parents face: how to pick up your kids from school while holding a full-time job.
  4. In this Nov. 4, 2019, file photo former White House adviser on Russia, Fiona Hill arrives for a closed door meeting as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Donald Trump’s exchange with the Ukrainian president was like nothing he had ever seen, David Holmes said in an earlier deposition.
  5. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The woman was running across an intersection against a crosswalk control signal, troopers said.
  6. Integrity Express Logistics, which is expanding its Tampa office, matches freight with trucks to haul it in 48 states and Canada. (DANNY JOHNSTON | Associated Press) DANNY JOHNSTON  |  AP
    The company plans to hire at least 50 more employees and to spend $230,000 on renovations and new office equipment.
  7. Scott Purcell, a senior geophysicist with GeoView, left, and Mike Wightman, president of GeoView use ground penetrating radar technology to scan a portion of King High campus in search for Ridgewood Cemetery in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, October 23, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. Lynn Cristina is a Wesley Chapel momma with two girls and works full time as a marketing manager. Courtesy of Lynn Cristina
    Why would I discourage my daughters’ creativity and drive? Aside from being lazy, I was trying to shield them from disappointment.
  9. Phase 1A of the project includes closing W Cass Street from N Willow Avenue to N Boulevard. DIVYA KUMAR  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A stormwater system improvement project has resulted in fewer customers frequenting Cass Street businesses in North Hyde Park.
  10. James Rybicki, 63, faces charges of lewd and lascivious molestation and possession of child pornography. But he could go free after a judge found that Pinellas sheriff’s detectives and Pinellas-Pasco prosecutors lied to obtain a search warrant in his case. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
    A Pinellas sheriff’s detective and Pinellas-Pasco prosecutors “made false statements” to obtain a search warrant, a judge has ruled. The evidence was thrown out.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement