by Barbara Van Reed
Michelle St. Jacques called our office last Thursday, all excited: “you have to send a photographer to the Price Chopper! Mrs. Claus is there today.” And so we did.
Mrs. Santa Claus sits near the store's exit during the last few weekends before Christmas. “I love seeing the people, the old people, the kids. It puts a smile on everybody's face when they see me.”
Mrs. Claus in her every day life is Mary LaFountain, long time Webster resident and a familiar face to many. She worked in the Price Chopper deli for ten years before retiring three years ago at age 71. Before that she spent ten years in the Park n' Shop deli department in Dudley. And, for the ten years before that, she and her late husband ran Skip's Place restaurant on South Main Street in Webster.
Mary talks about her current temporary gig as Mrs. Claus as if it's her favorite job yet. She began her Christmas career at Price Chopper ten years ago. “Two associates came to me and wanted to greet people and give out candy canes,” said store manager Tom Sullivan. “One passed away, but Mary has continued to do it every year. She's a nice lady.”
“I have fun doing it. I know a lot of people by sight,” said Mary. Customers who came by insisted on giving her donations, and so three years ago Tom Sullivan and she decided that if she were to accept contributions, it should be for a specific cause. They chose the Webster-Dudley Food Share program. Last year Mary collected close to $1,000.
This year, she thinks she will do equally well. “People are very generous.”
The donations go to buy the food items that the Webster-Dudley Food Share needs most. That happens the day before Christmas. The day after Christmas Mary will be celebrating her birthday.
The rest of the year Mary keeps busy with knitting and cross stitching, and walks the tracks by the Lake. She also spends time with her family, which includes four daughters, eight grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren.
Michelle St. Jacques called Mary LaFountain's portrayal of Mrs. Claus a “beautiful reflection of the Christmas spirit. As poor as people are, they still give to the Food Share.”
She had her own story of people's generosity: “I was at the Honey Dew in Dudley this morning, waiting in line behind someone. The person turned around and paid for my coffee and donut too.”
Christmas is over for this year, but Mary's birthday is today. Happy Birthday, Mrs. Claus!
Mary/Mrs. Claus will be back next Christmas. “As long as I can move and get around I'll be doing it,” she promised.
- Thursday, 27 December 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor