Franklin Santa Finds Comfort After Loss

Posted at 6:36 PM, Dec 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-10 23:39:14-05

Pat Petty has listened to the wishes and hopes of countless children over the last 25 years. In his bright red Santa suit, he said he's still surprised by what some children will say.

"Sometimes they'll be describing a video game, and you have no idea what they're talking about," Petty said. "But then they can tell you that grandma’s sick, and can Santa please help her out? Or daddy’s in jail, can you please get daddy home for Christmas?"

Petty is a professional Santa; something that started as a favor to a friend but has now evolved to a lifestyle. The home he shares with his wife, Dianne, is decked out in red, green, and gold decorations all year long. Each December, Petty will play Santa at dozens of events.

He has learned that memories are what make Christmas magical, and he has become an important memory for thousands of families.

"Children remember you, and they remember the little things," Petty said. "They remember the things that bother them. They remember the things they didn’t get from last year, and of course, they remember their Santa."

But Petty also personally knows how quickly that magic can fade.

His only granddaughter, Amelia, died of SIDS when she was just three months old, only weeks away from her first Christmas.

"It was one of those deals where the light just went out," Petty said.

But Petty said Santa helped him find healing.

"I ended up doing my Santa thing that year with little kids I knew were the same age as my grandchild. And that was a help to me because I could see that life goes on and that she was in such a good place, and I didn’t have to worry about her," he said.

Amelia died 17 years ago.

Petty said the children he meets in his Santa suit will never replace the little girl he lost, but they have helped fill the hole in his heart.

"That’s what keeps me just going and going," he said.

The Petty's host an annual open house for families to see their Christmas decorations and get a picture with Santa. That event will happen at 317 Astor Way in Franklin on December 17 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. The public has been invited to attend.