Just about all the celebrities do it. Take a stroll through the biography section of the local book store or library and peruse the racks after racks of biographies and autobiographies that chronicle the lives of the famous and infamous. Now that the busy Christmas season ins over, one local “celeb,” Santa Tim Stapleton, can devote time to finishing up his book, which details his half century of experiences of bringing holiday cheer to the young and young-at-heart. For Stapleton, it all started back in 1958 when he bought a red Santa suit for $8.95 at Woolworth’s to make the holidays bright for his younger siblings.
His younger brother and sister were so thrilled with their visit from Santa that Stapleton thought he would share the joy around his North Toledo neighborhood surrounding St. Michael’s Parish and at East Toledo’s Sacred Heart Parish. His ministry soon grew to more parishes and schools, nursing homes, and convents. In the month or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Santa Stapleton makes approximately 200 appearances as Santa Claus, handing out candy canes to all.
Though he’ll find an occasional Christmas treat on his front porch after an appearance, his merry-making is done without pay. “If I hired out my services, it would be a job,” he said. “I worked all my life. I’m retired now – I don’t want a job.”
And as one might expect, he’s amassed quite a few stories over five decades. He recalls sad stories, funny stories and some that says he can’t repeat in mixed company (yes, kids do say the darndest things). He’s compiling some of his favorite memories into a book that will be titled, “A View from Santa’s Knee.”
Stapleton shares an excerpt with Press readers:
I have been the Santa Claus at Sacred Heart Grade School for the past 20 years on St. Nicholas Day.
I always stop first at the pre-school, with my candy canes and my magic mirror. In the pre school kindergarten, the little ones have name tags on so Santa can call them out by name. One year, a little 5-year-old came up and sat on my knee. I asked her if she was playing in the street, and if she was eating her vegetables. I told the whole class that I was watching them, and that was why I had my magic mirror - to see if they were fighting with their brothers and sisters.
A little girl came up to me and stated that she had been fighting with her brother P.J. and she pulled up her sweater sleeve and said, “he bites.” I told her that she shouldn’t fight and that she should tell her brother too.
She said, “Santa, you tell him. His name is PJ and he is in the first grade.” (The children in the first grade have their names on their desks and Santa goes down each row and talks to the children individually. He also lets them have a quick peek in the magic mirror. He tells them that only the good little boys and girls are in the magic mirror!)
When I entered the first-grade classroom, I went down each row and I came upon this wide-eyed little boy with the name Paul Joseph. He had eyes that were dark brown and the size of quarters. He wore a starched white shirt and a big smile. He informed me that he didn’t play in the street and that he did eat all his vegetables. I looked at him and thought, Paul Joseph. So this is P.J.!
Santa looked into the magic mirror and said, “P.J. you can’t fight with your sister, and P.J. you can’t bite!” It was as if someone opened a spigot. He just turned white. You could see the blood draining from his face. I thought he was going to pass out. He promised that he wouldn’t fight any more.
Santa told him that he would be watching him in the magic mirror and that he would be remembered at Christmas.
I had to laugh, as I know they must have gotten together on the school bus. P.J. must have wondered how Santa knew he fought with his sister and that he bites.
Wow, the power of the magic mirror!