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True Believer

When Santa himself is too busy to make an appearance, Jose Rosales makes a convincing stand-in.

By Pat Young

When Jose Rosales was a child, he says he was a "true believer" in Santa Claus. Now that he's grown up, he tries to instill that same magical feeling in today's kids by transforming himself into the "jolly old elf" every holiday season.

Jose Rosales brings the spirit of Santa Claus to
the Silver City area. Photo by Jeff Young.

Instead of "eight tiny reindeer," though, Rosales uses horsepower. His "sleigh" is a 1951 Ford F-1 pickup, in "Santa red," of course, with a flathead six-cylinder column shift.

One of Rosales' first appearances as Santa this year will be at the Copper Country Cruizers annual Toys for Kids (Show & Shine) at Gough Park in Silver City on Dec. 1. An active member of the car club, Rosales enjoys bringing his "sleigh" to this event and visiting with children. "Bring your camera," he says. He'll be glad to pose for pictures at the toy drive.

Rosales and his wife, Marie, moved to Silver City 18 years ago. He and Marie have eight children of their own, plus 13 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and two "adopted" children of friends in town.

He has been playing Santa here for over a decade. Compared to some of his other pastimes over the years — motorcycle drag racing, parachuting, Porsche racing — he says becoming Santa offers "less thrill but more fun."

He adds with a smile, "I love the things kids come up with. They challenge you in a different way each year. By the end of the night, I've had more fun than they did."

Rosales starts growing out his usually trimmed white beard in October. By December, he has the flowing beard children expect.

"Kids ask, 'Is that real?' and pull it to make sure," he says.

Rosales spoke to a little boy in Spanish once, and the wide-eyed child told his mother. When she explained to her son that "Santa has to speak in all languages," the boy promptly brought a little Japanese girl to Santa.

"Luckily, I remembered a little Japanese," chuckles Rosales, who served overseas in the 82nd Airborne Division.

On another occasion, a little girl said she could tell the difference between the real and "fake" Santas because "the ones with all that plastic stuff are just helpers." Rosales, with his genuine leather boots and belt, was the "real thing" in her estimation.

Frequently kids ask if they can feed the reindeer. Rosales says his response is always, "The reindeer are resting while I work, so please don't disturb them."

For the last 10 years Rosales has participated in a fundraiser, "Breakfast with Santa," for the Junior 24 Club, an organization that was originally formed during WWII and has many charitable causes (see the October Desert Exposure).

This Santa also distributes toys at AmBank's annual Christmas party, and might be seen popping into local restaurants and handing out candy, just for the fun of it.

His wife, who has a smile Mrs. Claus would be proud of, frequently takes pictures of Santa's adventures, enjoying it as much as he does.

Most of the year, every child in town might pass by a man named Jose Rosales and never know his secret. But in December, he is Santa Claus, and they believe.

Copper Country Cruizers annual Toys for Kids (Show & Shine) at Gough Park in Silver City is Saturday, Dec. 1, from 9 a.m. to around 2 p.m. All ages and styles of vehicles, motorcycles and bikes are welcome. Entry fee is a brand-new toy in its original box. The public is welcome to attend free of charge, but is also invited to bring a toy. All of the toys will be given to Grant County area needy children by local non-profit organizations.

 

Pat Young is a retired journalist who
lives in the mountains near San Lorenzo.

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