Santa's favorite gift to give or receive is 'pure joy'

December 19, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. -- There is no box and no bow.

It was not handmade nor was it bought at a store.

But it is the greatest gift Floyd Parsons has ever received, and the same gift he has spent the last 36 years giving to others.

"It's pure joy," he said. "Seeing the look on their faces, I'd rather do this here than open a thousand presents."

Since 1973, Parsons, of Greencastle, Pa., has spread the gift of joy to residents of area nursing homes by dressing up as Santa.


At age 60, he laughs a deep belly laugh, jiggling his padded tummy like a bowl full of jelly when asked if he has ever thought of passing the torch to another.

"As long as I can put on this suit, I will be Santa Claus for these people," he said. "I just hope the good Lord doesn't take it away from me any time soon."

Parson is a man of few words, sitting quietly while he waits to greet the residents at the Village of Laurel Run in Fayetteville.

When he does speak, his voice is gentle and filled with what only can be described as the Christmas spirit.

Leaning down to give a lady a hug during his visit to the facility, he softly said "Merry Christmas" into her ear.

Not everyone responds the same way to Santa, Parsons said.

Some have told him "humbug" while others have asked to sit on his lap, he said.

While the small gesture might not seem like much, for some residents, Santa is their only visitor each year, said Cathy Allen of Martinsburg, W.Va. Many resident with Alzheimer's will not recognize family but they will recognize Santa, she said.

"And everyone just loves Floyd," she said.

Parsons would never admit it, but his Christmas spirit has spread like wildfire, Allen said.

The first year, Parsons went to one nursing home. Now, starting in November, he travels to three, sometimes four homes a week, he said. He also portrays Santa at two area children's events, the annual Mont Alto Toy Drive and on Christmas Day, when he hands out gifts at a Hagerstown-area home.

His work has prompted his co-workers to volunteer as helpers, and his union, UAW Local 1296 in Waynesboro, Pa., to supply him with 1,500 candy canes and 1,500 oranges to hand out, Allen added.

He also has inspired others to don the signature red and white suit, said John Cook of Waynesboro.

"It's just a joy to wear the suit," Cook said.

No one knows that better than Parsons, he said.

Allen said Parsons takes great pride in his suit, wearing only one that looks authentic. Since starting as Santa, he has gone through eight suits in 36 years and is due for a new one, she said.

Despite being booked solid from now until Dec. 25, Parsons said if asked, he would add more nursing homes to his list.

"This is my favorite time of year," he said.

The Herald-Mail Articles