homepage logo

Memories of Christmas “Special SANTA”

By Staff | Dec 21, 2018

Once upon a time – over half a century ago – there was a kind man who had many friends. Many of his older friends lived in retirement homes. He always said, “These people have played SANTA CLAUS to many children ‘n family members their whole lives – I believe now it is time someone should be SANTA to them!”

This man was rolly poly and jolly and low to the ground. He loved children and the elderly and shut ins and he very much wanted to do something special to brighten their holiday season. He made a perfect SPECIAL SANTA!

Several of his older friends lived at Lakeside Lutheran Home. He communicated with the Administrator, Mr. Heghin and through the years – the activity director – a lady named Opaldine Clausen, helped Santa and his assortment of elves.

This Special Santa decided a bright red apple would be a fitting treat to leave for each resident he visited. Having grown up in rural NW Iowa before and during the Great Depression days – an apple or an orange were indeed simple but wonderful gifts in a STOCKING often with a piece of hard colored wavy candy.

However – this SPECIAL SANTA emphasized even MORE importantly was the devoted few minutes spent visiting and sharing memories or talking about “the good ole days”. This “Santy Claus” ( as he called himself) – usually had a kind story … or a good memory … or a horse trade in common with the resident. If not – he made a new friend!

His wife, his children and throughout the years – his grandchildren and kind friends – would help him be a WONDERFUL Santa to so many.

It was a dark cloudy late Sunday afternoon on one of his early year visits when the nurse accompanied Santa from room to room with his elf helper – ME.

Politely the nurse said, “Santa..I would not expect any response from Anna as she has not spoken any words to staff in weeks”.

Never-the-less, Santa knew Anna from years ago. As he entered the room, a small frail little gray haired lady lay curled up in her bed. This Santa knelt down to be at a closer eye level. He touched Anna’s arm as he calmly said, ” Anna, Santa has come to visit you and brought you a little treat.” Much to our surprise – Anna’s eyes opened BIG and a smile shown on her wrinkled face as she said, “Oh Santa, I am SO glad to see you!”

Santa had a log cabin at Riverdale Ranch. He would sit by his pot bellied stove in the log cabin and little children and parents would file through to see Santa and get a sack of candy from rhe Chamber of Commerce and yes – AND A BIG RED APPLE!

Out in his fields – a horse pulled wagon would give visitors rides in the December afternoon with bells jingling all the way!

Special Santa included so MANY in his deliveries. As the years passed, the number of homes Santa visited- increased! Not only was he making visits to Emmetsburg centers – but West Bend – and then Rolfe. He and Mrs. Claus purchased over 2000 apples year after year!

Santa had a notebook he used to keep track of WHERE and WHEN he was to be!

…. SO MANY PLACES … special gatherings … friends homes to make a surprise visit!

This Special Santa knew no strangers and took no pay for his services of human kindness at this blessed time of each year.

In 1984 – Santa and Mrs. Santa were honored in the St. Patricks parade. Santa was “CITIZEN OF THE YEAR”. He and his wife were so very pleased and happy.

And then to everyone’s sadness and surprise – Special Santa passed very suddenly on Friday – Memorial Day weekend – just a few months later.

Mrs. Santa and his family decided to continue the tradition – although not as extensively. A little booklet was written about Special Santa and his mission.

Since his passing – now almost 35 years ago … each Christmastime – Special Santa’s family, church friends and Royal Neighbors honor Special Santa and Mrs. Santa’s memory with fruit, treats and visits to retirement and nursing homes.

Most importantly – we remember it is the gift of caring and conversation which makes our visits so very SPECIAL! Please consider sharing your time – throughout the year with those in our community retirement homes.

submitted by the daughter of Special Santa (Kerm Reeves) and Mrs. Santa (Rose Reeves)

Maureen Reeves Horsley

Emmetsburg, IA