Scarborough residents are remembering James Loader, a beloved movie theatre ticket collector who died Sunday after more than five decades of greeting moviegoers with a smile.

Loader spent 55 years tearing tickets and forming relationships with customers at movie theatres in Scarborough, making him a fixture in the community.

“You felt like he was your friend,” said Donna Craig. “I’ve known him for many years, coming here every week.”

The 83-year-old worked his last day at the Morningside Cinemas on New Year’s Day. He died unexpectedly on Sunday.

“We are saddened by the loss of James Loader, who was part of our family for nearly 55 years,” Cineplex, the owner of the theatre, tweeted. “He will be missed.”

Loader loved getting to know the people he met on the job.

“He loved to talk. He would keep me at the door stand for 20, 30 minutes at a time and no complaints at all,” said Melissa Chaytor, one of Loader’s co-workers.

Over the years, Loader became something of a local legend. Several years ago, a Facebook group was created in his honour, with hundreds of people sharing memories from over the decades.

When news spread about his death, the page received dozens of messages of support.

A vigil is scheduled for Loader at the Morninside Cineplex, located at 785 Milner Avenue, Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Loader’s work at the theatre, his daughter Patricia Lalonde said, will not soon be forgotten.

“Right now, he’s ripping tickets at the Pearly Gates…but you ain’t getting in for free.”

With a report from CTV’s Scott Lightfoot