IN WALLOWA COUNTY, EVERYONE KNOWS MR. & MRS. CLAUS
Last Christmas Karen Roberts of La Grande sent a letter to The Observer. The letter read in part:
I want to tell you about a Santa I know who spends every Christmas season bringing cheer and joy to young children and middle-aged children as well as the elderly, mentally and physically challenged folks in Wallowa County.
This Santa and Mrs. Claus live in Enterprise, and I have personally interviewed him and Mrs. Claus too. Oftentimes, she takes pictures for the children and their mommies and daddies, and helps Santa with his suit.
Sometimes this Santa sits for hours (in the hot suit and black rubber boots) without any breaks (and sometimes with nothing to drink, because of his beard). Can you imagine? But its worth it to him to see the smiles on everyones face.
He wears the nicest, softest suit that actually feels just like a real Santa-suit should.
I have personally sat on Santas lap and gotten my picture taken. I can tell you that if you really believe in the magic of Christmas and are really good, then Santa will be good too. My Santa is.
Santa has seen or visited (932) young and not-so-young believers. He goes to hospitals, nursing homes, mental health homes, senior centers, malls and almost anywhere.
He is so amazing, and Mrs. Claus is so awesome, too. She takes care of Santa when he comes home.
I am the luckiest believer of all because Santa is my dad, Ken Fairchild, and Mrs. Claus is my mother, Suzanne Fairchild, and I get to see them all the time and I love them with all my heart and I am so proud of both of them.
I just wanted you all to know them too, because if you dont have your very own Santa like I do, I might just share mine. Maybe.
Virtually everybody in Wallowa County should know Ken and Suzanne Fairchild, known to some as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.
Ken Fairchild has contributed to the happiness and well-being of the 7,500 people who live in our county, said Gerald Perren, president of the Wallowa County AARP. Where help or good cheer is needed, there you will find Ken.
The Governors Commission on Senior Services and the Oregon Volunteer Network seem to agree. This fall they selected Fairchild as one of five Oregon Volunteer Ambassadors for 2001-2002. Among Fairchilds many volunteer efforts recognized by the award was Fairchilds Santa Claus.
In 1997, Fairchild was selected by the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce as their Unsung Hero of the Year.
Fairchild is native to Wallowa County, but his working years were spent in Redmond, where he met his bride, and in Tigard.
In 1993, Fairchild retired to Wallowa County, not knowing that a whole new career awaited him.
As grange members, in the Fairchilds second year in Wallowa County, he was asked to play Santa at the Liberty Grange Christmas party.
The previous Santa had two great-grandchildren who he thought would recognize him.
Fairchild was such a hit at that first Christmas party that the grange wanted him for the following season also. Word got out, and others began to ask for him.
What the grange had in the way of a Santa suit was pretty threadbare. Fairchild was concerned about having the proper appearance if he was supposed to represent such an important personage.
Thus, his youngest and eldest daughters in Portland went shopping and secured a first-class outfit.
Last year, Fairchild as Santa gave out 932 candy canes and bags of assorted candy that the Santa couple made up. Safeway helps Santa out by giving him a break on the candy canes.
Its all fun and rewarding, he said.
One of the fun parts is all the questions.
Wheres your reindeer? is a common question.
They are at the North Pole picking up another load, is Santas standard answer.
Fairchild is touched by the honor of serving as Santa, a special position where many children share their hearts special wishes.
I just want my family together, said one little girl.
Its touching, said Santa.
We couldnt get her to smile, added Mrs. Santa.
Suzanne Fairchild has found that asking children to say Merry Christmas is much better than cheese to produce a nice big smile. Even adults, though, sit on his lap for a photo to send to grandchildren.
Another little girl just wanted a white mouse.
You know where the vet clinic is, dont you? she asked. They have lots of white mice.
Does your mother know this? Santa asked. He didnt want the mouse passion to be a surprise to the mother.
It kind of blossomed, said Mrs. Santa about their appearances as the Santa couple. Now the Fairchilds see the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, the school, a day care, neighbors homes, the Winterfest light parade and company parties.
He has greeted children of all ages from 10 days old to the nursing home residents who enjoy his visits.
But not all is joy and light for the Santa couple. A year ago, Fairchild contracted diabetes. Now at age 70 he finds himself tired from the demanding Santa schedule of over 30 appearances the fortnight before Christmas.
No wonder Im so tired.
Theres no word whether the reindeer are online, too.
Story and photos
by Gary Fletcher
of The Observer