The Santa of Jefferson Park

By: Robert Lee - Contributing columnist

As we all know, young and old, those who still believe — and I do — Santa Claus does live at the North Pole and he’s been living their for quite some time. I know this to be the pure truth of the matter. I don’t care how many mean little boys and girls have told you that Santa Claus does not exist — because he does. Those who say he does not exist, for them he does not. Santa only comes to those who truly believe and most of us who are still young at heart do believe. We see him every year. For the non-believers, it is not a happy time of the year because a long, long time ago they lost their own inner child. I hope with my words I will be able to bring back those lost days of long, long ago for them.

For myself, at one point in life I did lose sight of what Santa Claus means to the human heart. ‘Tis the season of the Christmas spirit. Within that spirit of Christmas God does live. He lives in the hearts of all men and women. God works through the year to help soften our hearts. It is in this season that God hopes to return us to the hopeful days of being a child. It has worked for a lot of people.

We all know that Santa can not be in all places all the time, so he needs help. And with the help of God, some mighty fine people do come forth and help a great deal with all the tasks at hand. I wish to tell you about one such person. I did not know it at the time, but some 40 years ago on a Sunday, I did meet one of Santa’s stand-ins in person. At the time, he did not know it but it was written in his future. As with most of us in our young years, we all have had our ups and downs. This young man, at the time, was no different. Even then, with just that first meeting, you could tell he had a good heart. It would take many years for me to find out just how good of a man he truly is.

We both lived in Jefferson Park. It’s located off of U.S. 1 south. I lived there for 20 years, but he still lives there today. Some call it JP others call it “The Park.” Jefferson Park is microcosm of “Anywhere USA,” good and bad. I am not going to write about the bad, only the good. The Park, for the most part, is made up of families who have lived in that area for 50 years or better. During the time that I lived there, it was nothing more than just a quiet, peaceful area that I was proud to call home. I still own property there.

I cannot tell you how many years that this man has helped people in The Park. But I can tell you that, for about 30 years, he did work for the county water department, until he retired several years back. He has always been a giver and not a taker, as you will see. In time this man would become one of “Santa’s surrogates.” Every year, for as many years as I can look back on, this man has brought out his Christmas Spirit all year long. But at this time of the year, he truly is Jefferson Park’s own Santa Claus.

I remember one time a few years back that he took out his tractor, hooked up a trailer and loaded up for a Christmas ride. It seems that he made it to the lot across from the IGA store and pulled over. It did not take long before everybody and their brother wanted to stop and talk to Santa Claus. In short order there was a traffic jam from all the cars backed up trying to get in to see Santa. Unfortunately, there was not enough space and Santa was asked to take the tractor and go home, as he did. There is always going to be a Grinch somewhere. But you can’t stop the spirit in some people.

In the spirit of Christmas, the true Spirit of God comes forth and out of this man. He rides through The Park and other locations dressed as Santa should dress. He brings hope to all who see him. This hope is not just for the children. It is the hope of looking back and remembering what we were as children. There is a glow in the faces of all who know and see this man for what he is — that being a good and kind man.

The spirit of Christmas does not live within him at this moment only. It lives within his heart year round. Most people have no idea how big that heart really is. I have seen for myself, with my own eyes, and it is not hearsay.

I will not call out names, but anyone who knows this man knows that in past years he had a friend who was dying . The man had nowhere to go and no one to take care of him. At times, this man was bedridden and could do nothing to help himself. He had to be cleaned and bathed. This year-round Santa did not hesitate one moment and did not back away in his attempts to help this man. He was a loyal friend to the end. I don’t think that most people would have been so kind.

This was not, and has not been, his only act of kindness toward his fellow man. I know for a fact that many who would have had nothing to eat at times never had to worry about going hungry with this man around. He is a fisherman and I can make you this one promise: if he is standing around a big pot, it’s going to be full of catfish stew. I can also say this: that pot of stew is not just for one, it is for all who might be standing in his yard. I do not think that this man had ever meet a stranger. He has helped more than just one of his own family members. He has helped all.

One thing I can, and will, say about this man: he is dedicated to his family and always will be. I know his grandchildren mean everything to him. I also know that he has looked after other children. At any given time, there are several who might have been homeless had it not been for this man’s kind acts toward them. I have never known him to ask for anything in return.

These acts of kindness are from his inner self. God has laid his hands on this man. He has been blessed. I am not trying to make this man out to be a saint, for he is a human being with faults, just like the rest of us.

Even with whatever faults this man might have had or has, it matters not, for I know him to be a good man. I know I don’t get to see this man on a regular basis but I do keep up with him and what is taking place in The Park. I am proud to call this man a friend — maybe not best friends but still friends, nonetheless. This man’s name is Richard Blakely Sr. But to anyone who knows him, he has always been called “Little Ricky.”

Little Ricky and Santa are one in the same to me. To see Little Ricky on his tractor at Christmas is what brings out the sprit of Christmas in the hearts of many. May God bless us all during this holiest of all times of the year. May God pray for us all.

Robert Lee is a concerned citizen and U.S. Marine veteran who owns and operates Rockingham Guns and Ammo. His column appears here each Saturday.

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Robert Lee

Contributing columnist