Thanks for many merry memories

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I lost my best friend on June 10, 2012. He went home to be with Jesus. God allowed me to have Clyde for 49 years. We had two children, Nannette and Lester. Our travels together were not always on a smooth road. There were bumps along the way, some worse than others, but God’s presence was always with us.
Back in the 1980s, when our children were teenagers, Clyde decided to overload me with handcrafted Christmas decorations, so I wouldn’t want to decorate as much at Christmas. He started with a couple of Christmas trees cut out of plywood with holes for miniature lights, Dickens characters (Tiny Tim, Scrooge etc.), Frosty and Frizzy (snowman and wife) and a couple of toy soldiers. It didn’t discourage me — I just wanted more decorations.
The next summer, Clyde started early with a mechanical jack-in-the-box that really worked. I drew the patterns; Clyde cut out the figures from plywood, and our children plus a few friends painted. Next, we needed elves who worked: One cut, one hammered and two painted.
We really needed a nativity scene because it is the time of year we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Clyde cut life-sized figures from plywood — Mary, baby Jesus, shepherds and lambs, wise men on camels, angel and star. He built a stable with a cow and donkey to place these figures in and around. This was placed in his sister’s yard.
As time went by, Clyde built a carousel with reindeer that went around, up and down, with lights that moved with the carousel.

One year, Clyde decided to put on a red warmup suit and Santa hat to hand out candy canes to the children as parents brought them to see the Christmas decorations. By now, several neighbors had started decorating. Children started calling Clyde “Santa Claus”; he loved the children, and the children loved him.
Clyde had to have a suit made especially for him. God provided red velvet material and white fur for a suit. God showed me how to make a Santa Claus suit for Clyde and also a suit for me (Maw Claus). Clyde grew his own beard and went to the beauty shop around Thanksgiving each year to have his hair and beard turned white. So started “The Santa Claus Ministry” for us.
Each child needs good, happy and positive memories while growing up. God provided these memories with a Christian Santa Claus, family, friends and neighbors being elves and providing the held we needed for all this to come together and work.
We opened our home from Thanksgiving Day to Dec. 23 to everyone who wanted to visit with our Oakshade Avenue Santa and enjoy a homemade cookie off Santa’s table. There was never a charge for this.

During the years, we averaged visiting 600 residents in area nursing homes and taking each one a small gift. Thousands of people visited our home from around the world: Switzerland, England, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Japan, Africa and Australia, to name a few. No one else in the world decorates at Christmas like we do in the United States of America.
In April 2000, Clyde had congestive heart failure and was never able to go back to work. Sometime later, in late October or early November, Clyde received a phone call asking if he would ride in the Kannapolis Christmas Parade as Santa Claus. A childhood dream came true! Because of Clyde’s health, this was the first year “Maw Claus” rode with Santa. Clyde was the best Santa Claus in the Kannapolis Christmas Parade since Bunny Moss in the 1950s and 1960s.
God gave Clyde a gift to be Santa Claus. He was able to be Santa Claus for only one day last December.
My husband and best friend was the Oakshade Avenue Santa Claus of Kannapolis for more than 25 years. He loved the attention and enjoyed every moment he spent with children and adults alike.
Thanks for the memories. It was a blessing to us all.

Faye Gray lives in Kannapolis.