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Santa Dave brings joy, helps create memories during holiday season

“Santa Dave” David Wilson, an operations officer with the Logistics Readiness Center-Redstone, loves to watch the children’s faces light up as they see Santa walking toward them. Photo Credit: Teresa Wilson

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - Guess what, everyone? We have in our midst our very own Santa Claus!

David Wilson, an operations officer with the Logistics Readiness Center-Redstone, grew up loving Christmas and all of the traditions that go along with the season. Joining the Army in 1980 at just 17 years old, he served as a missile and rocket systems maintainer until August 1985.

It was when he was assigned to Germany during his military service that he found the Christkindl Market in Nuremberg. He said he felt like a little kid in a candy shop when he bought his first nutcracker.

"I have collected them ever since," he said. "I'm up to 75 now."

Because he loved Christmas so much, his wife bought him a Santa suit in 1998, he said. Then, around 2000, he started appearing as Santa outside their home and it has blossomed from there. An Army Civilian at Redstone since 1987, Wilson and his wife, Teresa, are well known in the community for their holiday spirit.

They have a booth with a Christmas-themed backdrop at an area outdoor market every year from late November and throughout December, where they welcome community members to take pictures with Santa.

"Santa Dave" has taken pictures with children - and kids at heart - of all ages, ranging from eight days to 85 years old. During the festivals, he loves to walk around the market and watch the children's faces light up as they see Santa approaching them. It is no surprise to see kids run and dive into his arms yelling, "I love you, Santa!"

One of his fondest memories is one little girl who got so excited to see Santa that her mom had to purchase dry pants for her, he said.

Each year, Wilson and his wife ride in the Christmas holiday parades of two local towns as Santa and Mrs. Claus.

"In one parade, our grandchildren dress up as elves and ride on a fire truck with us," he said, "and, in the other, I ride in the bucket of one of the local electrical company's line trucks."

Wilson also volunteers at his church and at his grandchildren's elementary school for their annual "Cookies and Pictures with Santa" event. He said some of the most touching experiences occur in special needs pre-k and kindergarten classes.

"Many of those children only speak with their eyes and smiles," he said. "If you want to see a grown man cry, just look for me leaving that school."

Wilson makes the experience magical for each child he talks with, and always stays in character during the holiday season, whether he's dressed as Santa or not.

With his big beard, broad smile, and jolly belly, children always take a second look and many approach to ask "Are you Santa?" With a quick wink, a quiet "Ho, ho, ho," and a finger to his lips letting them know to keep the secret, he answers, "You never know."

"Getting to be Santa and seeing the joy he brings to both children and adults is a true blessing from God," he said, adding that knowing he makes people happy brings him joy as well. "If you have children, you can just imagine the looks on their faces and the excitement they feel!"

Wilson said he is very lucky to have a wife and family who support him every year.

The best way to spread cheer during the holiday is to do it with the heart, and Santa Dave has proven over and over he lives up to the task.

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