Santas add 6 to their Hall of Fame
Inductees wrote letters, made art, lifted spirits of children
ALBION – One new member of the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame answered thousands of letters from children who wrote Santa.
Another Hall of Famer created illustrations of a jovial Santa that helped shape the public perception of Santa as kind and loving.
Four other new Hall of Famers wear the red suit and bring joy to countless children.
The inductees were celebrated on Friday during the Charles W. Howard Legendary Santa Claus Conference. The conference came to Albion, home of Charles Howard, who founded a Santa Claus School that he ran from 1937 until his death in 1966.
Howard was part of the inaugural Hall of Fame in 2010. The site is located in Santa Claus, Ind. (For more on the Hall of Fame, click here.)
Four of the Santas in the new class of the Hall of Fame all do extensive humanitarian work.
Tim Cavender is a Santa in Ball Ground, Ga. He first wore the Santa suit at age 14.
He devotes much of his time to local charities, including Toys for Tots. He participates in many parades and work with photographers to the annual tree lighting at the Governor’s Mansion. Cavender carries two integral traits with him – his concern for children and a deeply rooted faith in the “Reason for the Season,” said his wife Pam (Mrs. Claus) in introducing him on Friday.
Cavender said he grew up without a “town Santa” in his Georgia community. His first exposure to seeing Santa was viewing Charlie Howard on the televised Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Cavender has now been the town Santa in Ball Ground for 30 years.
“Santas are not the replacement for the Christ child,” Cavender told the crowd on Friday night. “We are an extension. We need to be a great and wonderful example of Saint Nicholas.”
Cavender said the Santas are held to a higher calling with their character.
“Don’t ever tarnish the red suit,” he said. “Now more than ever children need examples.”
Bruce Templeton is a Santa in Canada at St. John’s, Newfoundland. Each year, with a team of helpers from the business community, Templeton helps lead a massive good will operation that includes collecting more than 20 tons of food.
Templeton also makes arrangements to fly 18 children with terminal illnesses on a real plane to meet Santa in the North Pole on what will likely be the children’s final Christmas holidays. Seventeen of the children are selected by a radio station and one child is selected from the hospital.
Templeton said Santa is often asked to grieve with families, to give comfort and lift the spirits of ailing children.
“I know Saint Nicholas is beside me,” Templeton told the Santas at their conference in Albion. “Have no fear when you are asked to do the uncomfortable because Saint Nicholas is there beside you.”
Templeton has portrayed Santa 1,500 times over 37 years. He is a volunteer Santa. He gives all that revenue and a portion from the sale of his memoirs – “The Man in the Red Suit” and “The Man with the White Beard” – to Rotary International. That money has bought polio vaccines for more than 240,000 children in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Sam Militello has portrayed Santa for more than 30 years in St. Clair, Mich., including as the Santa in downtown Detroit’s big Thanksgiving Day Parade. He even raises and tours with his own reindeer.
Militello helps with an annual Good Fellows charity drive, as well as Toys for Tots and other local charities.
He is also the owner of Santa and Co. LLC, which is the producer of the original Santa Claus suit – as designed by Charles W. Howard. The suit has been featured in media, print and on countless Santas around the world.
Ron Robertson is a Santa from San Juan Capistrano, Calif. He has appeared as Santa in advertisements for Best Buy, Pet Smart, Rosetta Stone and the Travel Channel as well as guest spots in series such as “Castle,” “The Mentalist” and “The Tonight Show.”
Robertson is a director and president emeritus of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas. In that capacity he has stood not only for excellence in the portrayal of Santa Claus among that body of Kringles, but for excellence throughout the entire Santa Claus community, according to his induction write-up.
Robertson said he has enjoyed portraying Santa.
“It’s a wonderful thing to bring joy to children and adults,” he said.
Two others went into the Hall of Fame, even though they weren’t Santas.
Haddon Sundblom, an artist from Chicago, illustrated many advertisements for Coca-Cola. Sundblom, who died in 1976, created the Santa paintings from the 1930s to the ’60s. His illustrations created a perception of a warm and caring Santa.
“In classic red and white, his larger than life representation of the warm, gentle Santa was different to the other interpretations of the time,” according to the Hall of Fame. “These vibrant, lifelike paintings were an instant hit with the general public.”
James F. Martin also was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He served as postmaster of Santa Claus, Indiana.
In 1914, Martin began to answer the letters addressed to Santa Claus that were received from children. People flocked to the town, seeking a special postmark.
Martin died in 1935. Today, a non-profit organization called Santa’s Elves, Inc. carries on the wonderful tradition, keeping James F. Martin’s and the town of Santa Claus’ historic legacy alive.
Another Santa and recent Hall of Famer was recognized during Friday’s program.
J. Paul Raines was 66 when he died on Jan. 26, 2015 after a fight with cancer. Raines wanted to attend the Albion conference.
He was a Vietnam War veteran and an accountant, but he was best known as a professional Santa Claus for 43 years in Phoenix, Arizona. He founded Santa Claus and Company, and created and taught “Santa’s Workshop 101.” He was elected into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame in 2013.
Raines was among the fallen Santas remembered during the conference, a tribute that included the reading of a poem, “Santa’s Final Sleigh Ride.”