Since childhood, everyone knows Santa Claus has a big heart; he’s always giving gifts and what better way to present a gift than to honor veterans.
David and Pat Kelley, of Sedalia, who portray Mr. and Mrs. Claus each Christmas season, donate the proceeds from their hobby, “Have Santa will Travel,” to the Show-Me Honor Flight.
David Kelley, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Korea, said he’s been playing Santa for 13 years in the Sedalia area. His wife joined him two years ago as Mrs. Claus. Previously while living in Parkville, he portrayed the Jolly Old Elf for five years.
“Any money we generate off of it, that goes to the Show-Me Honor Flight,” Kelley said. “I’ve had some friends go on it and they really, really enjoyed it.
“They asked me ‘why don’t you go?’” he added. “Well, I’ve been to Washington (D.C.) and I’ve seen the monuments. In the same token, I feel like if I was to go, I would be taking the place of somebody that has never seen it before. I thought it was a worthwhile project and that they could use the help. We enjoy doing it, that’s the main thing.”
This year has been busy. Mr. and Mrs. Claus have made visits to Tipton, Warsaw, Marshall and most of the major daycares in Sedalia.
“A new one this year was Kehde’s Barbecue, I’ve done that one three times,” he added.
He’s also paid visits to Orscheln Farm & Home, Winchester Meadows and Ewing Vocational Center.
Kelley said adding his wife as Mrs. Claus has been great because many small children are timid of Santa but will talk to Mrs. Claus.
Recently the couple went to Warsaw for an event.
“We went down to Warsaw the other night for Ewing (Vocational Center),” he added. “I got tickled, there was a little girl there and her mother told me ‘she won’t come up to see you.’”
He said they both looked at each other for a few minutes, and then the little girl finally came over and sat on his lap. Eventually she warmed up enough to participate in a dance with Santa.
“I picked her up and I carried her,” he said. “We danced a little bit and then I sat her on my feet to where she could dance like that.”
Kelley said he began playing St. Nick when he was a member of the South Platte Kiwanis Club.
“They didn’t have anybody to play Santa Claus,” he said. “So, I offered to play Santa, and I liked doing it.”
He begin playing Santa in Sedalia with the encouragement of previous resident Mary McLaughlin, a Kiwanis member who owned McLaughin Furniture Co. and McLaughlin Funeral Home.
“I told (Sedalia Kiwanis) about the Santa project and Mary though that was great,” he added. “Well, Mary bought the Santa suit.”
Although Kelley usually portrays Santa for children he remembered how much Santa meant to a sick woman once when he was at a Kansas City hospital.
“When we were in Parkville, I used to go to the North Kansas City Hospital,” he said. “I’d go down to the children’s ward and play Santa Claus. One day we’d been up to the children’s ward and we’re taking the elevator back down. There was a guy on the elevator who said ‘do you guys do that for everybody?’ I said ‘no, normally we just do it for the children in the hospital.’”
The man explained that his wife had been in the hospital for more than three weeks and would have to stay another three weeks. He asked Kelley if he would mind to pay her a visit.
“He said ‘she’s really down,’” Kelley said. “So, we just went back upstairs with him and went to her room. We had a good time with her, she really enjoyed it.”
Kelley, a retired sheet metal worker who is 80, said he’ll continue to portray Good Old St. Nick for as long as he’s healthy.
“I always told my kids when they were growing up ‘whatever you do, make sure you enjoy doing it,’” he said. “‘If you don’t enjoy it you will be miserable … don’t let money be the deciding factor.’”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.