Mrs. Santa

Remembering Mrs. Santa...

"Yet the hearts must child-like be
Where such heavenly guests abide
Unto children, in their glee,
All the year is Christmas-tide."

Lewis Carroll
Christmas 1887

Some time around 1970 a woman named Blanche Shon asked members of our family to go with her to nursing and retirement homes to sing and play for people who had no one else during the Christmas holidays. Our mom, a former operatic actress who gave up the stage for children, pets, a mortgage, and a life of teaching kids to give to others through performance - said yes. When a woman who has sung Tosca says you are volunteering, you go with the program.

At each stop after we'd done our part Blanche Shon, a somewhat shy woman at all other times, pranced in dressed as Mrs. Santa Claus and gave a small, wrapped gift to everyone in the room. She and her husband, Ed, bought these gifts throughout the year and attracted volunteers, yes elves, to wrap and deliver them. Blanche repeated this numerous times a year for over 30 years. It is estimated that she provided Christmas smiles for 60,000 people.

Years later, we now understand the magnitude of what Blanche Shon was doing. Throughout childhood Hans, I, our brother and sisters showed up several times a Christmas season to somewhat self-conciously perform for these folks who had so much life under their belts and so little left to go. More than once we went in with a bad mood. Often we made mistakes. But every time we left changed. You start to understand what is important - and what is not - when your slightest gift brings tears to the eyes of those who already know.

On September 1, 1999 Blanche "Mrs. Santa" Shon died at the age of 79. During our bike ride along the beautiful Blue Ridge, Hans and I will be remembering the woman who taught us much about what really matters in life.

Hans tells more of Blanche's story at: