Ivins woman recalls how father spread cheer as Santa

Photo by Roger Kirby

IVINS – Santa Claus is everywhere during the holiday season. He’s on billboards, on business posters, on the television and on the internet. He is also in the malls where children get to share their Christmas morning wish lists with him, and on street corners ringing bells for donations for the underprivileged. Busy passersby may register the appearance of a bearded man in a red-and- white suit and may recognize him as Santa – but what about the person beneath the iconic holiday outfit?

Everyone has a story to tell, and the individuals who portray Santa during the holiday season are no exception.

One such individual was Don Duncanson.

Beginning in 1971 to shortly before his death in 1998, Duncanson played the part of Santa year after year.

Diane Duncanson Gifford of Ivins, one of Duncanson’s daughters, said her father would act the part of Santa Claus at local businesses like Hurst Ben Franklin – now Hurst Ace Hardware – and the Red Cliffs Mall. He would also visit care centers and child daycare centers as Jolly Old Saint Nick.

There have been times, Gifford said, when people would show her photographs of either themselves as children, or their own children, taken with Santa Claus. More often than not, that Santa was her father.

“It’s really nice for me,” she said. “It’s like he is still here and watching over us.”

Gifford said that from 1971 to 1976, her father would team up with another man and collect toys throughout the year to take to families in Ivins.

“At the time a lot of people in Ivins were financially where they couldn’t have a Christmas for their kids,” Gifford recalled. “So he would go in and be Santa Claus for the ward – there was only one ward in Ivins then – and afterwards he would gather the toys…and bring them into the homes of the people that lived in Ivins. That gave him even more of a sense of being Santa Claus.”

Duncanson would also play Santa Claus by appointment. One such time was in December 1997. He very ill and suffering from a failing liver and failing kidneys, Gifford said, but it didn’t seem to matter to him. Duncanson was determined to be at the ward Christmas party his daughter and two of her sons were attending.

Gifford described how she and her sons had to help her father into the building and over to where he would be seeing the ward’s host of children. Without complaint, he listened to each and every one of them.

“His patience was unlimited,” Gifford said. “He had all the patience in the world for those little children. That was his gift; that was his gift to this community; that was his gift to this family.”

The December of 1997 would be Duncanson’s last. He passed away on June 8, 1998, at the age of 71.

Gifford said she would never forget how much her father loved what he did for others as Santa Claus.

“It was something that he got a lot of pleasure out of,” she said.

mkessler@stgnews.com

Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.

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