Every year for the past 20 years, Don and Ellie Funk have graciously hosted a favorite, famous and beloved guest in their lakeside home.
He usually appears in the second week of December and stays until he has to return to the North Pole to make his toys and gifts run on Christmas Eve.
He travels light, with few personal items, as he never seems to shave, and always wears the same style of clothing.
However, he does bring reindeer along with him, for which the Funks have graciously provided a shelter.
By now, you probably need no introduction to Santa Claus, who bears a remarkable resemblance to his lifetime friend, Don Funk, not only in appearance, but also personality.
Santa Claus is in Town
A telephone call and the pulling of a few strings gained admittance to the Funk home for a chat with their famous and much-sought-after guest, Santa Claus, who had just arrived from the North Pole.
Don Funk and Santa are lifelong friends. “Since we were little boys,” Santa said. “We are about the same age. Don was kind of a rascal when he was young.”
Still in his bright red, fur-trimmed coat and black boots, he was relaxing in Don’s favorite rocker-recliner. He said, “I just fed and watered the reindeer and put them in the Funk shed. The shed keeps the reindeer in out of the weather and allows them to rest after the long trip and in preparation for our world-wide trip on Christmas Eve.
He was sitting cozily near the burning fireplace, over which an old cross-cut saw was hanging, decorated with the words, “Merry Christmas from the Funks.”
Santa began the conversation by saying he had been sitting in that chair for well over 20 years.
“I started back in the late seventies,” he said. “Don and Ellie would always decorate their home and yard beautifully, and Don would sit in this very chair to watch the folks go by. The people would often look in this big window and honk at him, and he would wave back to them.
“The Funks used to put up many more lights, as many as 15,000 lights,” Santa said. Don, unlike Santa, has slowed down some.
“We got the idea for me to sit here in my bright red Santa suit and wave at them (as I was here visiting anyway),” Santa said. “That’s the way it all started.
“I usually start sitting here during the second week of December and stay until I finally have to go back to the North Pole and get the gifts ready for the kids and hitch up the sleigh.”
Don added, “Santa Claus tells the kids when they come out here that he and I are pretty good friends and about the same age. And when Santa is in this area, checking on the kids to see if they are naughty or nice, he comes in and spends the evening with me.”
As it gets closer to Christmas, sometimes three or four cars at a time can be seen outside the Funks’ home, looking at Santa through the window.
“The people are very respectful of each other,” Don said, “and it’s fun for Santa to sit here. And sometimes, the people turn on the car interior light, so Santa can also see the little kids wave at him. That really tickles him.”
Young and old enjoy seeing Santa. Sometimes, groups from churches have come by to see Santa, and the Funks have also had buses come from the nursing homes. “When they do that, they usually call ahead to see if Santa will be there that night,” Don said.
Santa and Don both agreed that, “We love to have, and welcome, people bring their families, or anybody by, to see Santa.”
Santa’s Busy Schedule
Santa shared that he is usually pretty busy during the day, taking care of lists, requests, etc. but he tries to sit down in Don’s chair to relax, with a fire in the fireplace, from 6-9 p.m. pretty much every evening from now until he has to leave late Christmas Eve.
“Ellie graciously serves me homemade cookies and hot chocolate or a Coca-Cola from her kitchen,” Santa said. “And Don keeps logs on the fire, and his TV remote is at my disposal; he and I both like to watch the reruns of the Cartwrights on Bonanza.”
Directions? Just Follow the Reindeer Tracks…
Don said, “Just come out to the Vandalia Lake residential area, keep driving around and see the houses decorated. Just turn into Lake Hills Cove, which is a dead end, a cul-de-sac, to reach the Funks’ and see Santa.
A lighted sign, “Merry Christmas” is evident at the front of the house, alongside a “Santa Stops here” sign.”
Santa said that he sometimes gets a little drowsy, and if you catch him with his eyes closed, just honk your horn at him.
Santa reminded all that to be on his good little boys and girls list, “You should be patient with mom and dad, as mom and dad are patient with you. Do your chores and be good, not only with your parents, but with your friends and teachers, Be nice not just at Christmas time, but always. For that, you will be rewarded,” Santa said.
Santa Claus believes in the spirit of Christmas, brotherly love, and wishes all a Merry Christmas and a blessed new year……. And so do the Funks, Don and Ellie.