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South Surrey resident is one of Santa’s best-kept secrets

Retired pressman Don Bennett has been helping St. Nick for more than 25 years
Santa gives South Surrey resident Don Bennett a lot of credit for helping out with his responsibilities over the holiday season. Contributed photo

We all know Santa Claus is real.

But he has his challenges – for security reasons, for instance, he has to go by all kinds of pseudonyms, particularly when fulfilling all his responsibilities during the Christmas season.

On the Semiahmoo Peninsula one of the identities he has assumed – with the willing co-operation of the individual in question – is that of a South Surrey resident, retired pressman Don Bennett, 87.

Bennett has been helping him out in the community for 25-plus years, Santa told the Peace Arch News by email – evidently from the North Pole – adding that ‘they’ have done all the major malls in the area.

“But I prefer a more relaxed setting, such as the ‘Breakfast With Santa’ event at Softball City, which I’ve attended for over 20 years,” he said.

“You just never know where or when Santa might turn up,” he added.

“I’ve done major grocery chains, kids’ parties, Canadian Union of Public Employees’ parties, private house parties and numerous other corporate Christmas parties – I even did work (through Bennett) for an agency for three or four years.”

Ironically, Santa said, for all the help he has been with seasonal duties in recent decades, Christmas was “never a big deal” for Bennett when he was growing up.

“(He) was born in Vancouver in the middle of the Second World War,” he said. “Had a paper route and then worked for a neighborhood meat market as a teenager.”

For many years Bennett worked at the Vancouver Sun, and later for all of Pacific Press, Santa added.

“(He) delivered advertising proofs all over downtown Vancouver while waiting to begin an apprenticeship as a plate maker – even worked in the fledgling computer room, (which was) operating on punch cards in the 1960s, and sold classified ads.”

Eventually, Bennett got his apprenticeship in the press room where he stayed until he was forced to retire after a triple arterial bypass operation, Santa said.

Bennett was married for 63 years until he lost his wife just two years ago, he noted, but they have two adopted daughters (“the pride of my life,” Bennett has told him) and four grandchildren – and now one great granddaughter.

Presumably because most of the facts about his life are well-known, Santa was reluctant to talk about himself, however.

Although he most assuredly has a list and checks it twice, he was not about to relieve our curiosity about who made the naughty and nice categories this year, particularly when it came to local politicians.

“Sorry…Santa is apolitical,” he replied.

Nor could he be drawn on what he feels about many conspiracy theories that hold that he doesn’t exist.

“You are entitled to to your own opinion,” was all he would say on that.

But both he and Bennett agree that their favourite part of Christmas is “when it’s all over and packed up and we can return to peace in the valley.”

While people seldom ask Santa what he wants for Christmas, he said his greatest wish is for “some more peace and tolerance in this tired old world.”

His basic message for us for the season doesn’t vary: “A very merry Christmas and a happy and, hopefully, prosperous New Year.”

But he is more forthcoming when questioned about the most unusual Christmas gift he was ever asked for.

“I was at a private house party and a woman came up to me and said ‘I hope you will be cool with my kids – I just lost my husband’,” he said.

“The first two children didn’t ask for much,” he recalled.

“Then the third one got on my knee and I asked what she would like for Christmas.

“She said ‘I don’t want anything for Christmas, but on your way past Heaven would you please tell my daddy that I love him?’

“I hugged her so hard I thought her eyes would pop, and I said “Of course, sweetie – that will be my first stop.”

About the Author: Alex Browne

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