Santa statue planned for Albion takes life-size form

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 April 2022 at 11:39 am

Statue, currently in clay form, to be cast in bronze, with unveiling expected in June 2023

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Joe Gehl, one of the directors of the Albion Betterment Committee, poses with a statue of Charles Howard as Santa Claus.

Gehl was able to see the life-size form of the statue on Saturday in sculptor Brian Porter’s garage in Pendleton, outside Lockport.

Porter has been diligently creating the 6-foot-tall clay mold in recent months. The model will be moved to the University of Buffalo’s foundry for the mold and casting process next winter with a goal of being installed in downtown Albion in time for the June 2023 Strawberry Festival.

Gehl and the Albion Betterment Committee have been raising money for the statue and working on the project since about 200 Santas came to Albion in April 2015 for a convention of people who portray Santa.

Howard is revered by the Santas for starting a school in 1937. He ran the school until his death in 1966 and the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School continues today in Midland, Michigan.

The statue reflects the Howard design for Santa Claus suits. Porter used one of the Howard Santa suits and also received many helpful suggestions from Ken McPherson, who has been portraying Santa for more than four decades and collects many artifacts from the Santa School and Howard’s Christmas Park that was on Phipps Road in Albion.

Charles Edward Bergeman, Howard’s grandson who lives in Lewiston, praised Porter for the creation of the 6-foot-high statue.

“He just looks fantastic,” Bergeman said.

His grandfather died when Bergeman was 7. He remembers the man who was also a farmer, toy maker, community volunteer and who was very devoted to his family.

“He was more than just Santa Claus,” Bergeman said. “He did so many things.”

Brian Porter said the Santa statue is most intricate and detailed of all the statues he has created.

He also made the statue of the soldier in Medina outside the former Armory. That statue was dedicated on Sept. 7, 2019.

Brian Porter discusses the look of the statue with Natasha Wasuck, one of the Albion Betterment Committee members. Wasuck owns Tinsel, an ice cream business on Main Street. She wants to see Albion celebrate Howard and the Santa Claus legacy of the community.

Wasuck, Gehl and the Betterment Committee will discuss the statue and other elements of Waterman Park with the Village Board this coming Wednesday. The group would like to include lighting, benches and a Santa House at the park, which is a half block south of the canal. An interpretive panel would also detail other aspects of Howard’s life and tell his impact on the Santa Claus community.

Donations for other elements of the project can be sent to Albion Betterment Committee/Charles Howard Project, 14487 Baker Rd., Kent NY, 14477. That is the address for Joe Gehl, one of the directors of the Albion Betterment Committee.

Photos courtesy of the Santa Claus Oath Foundation – Charlie Howard is shown as Santa during a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Howard served as the Macy’s Santa from 1948 to 1965.