In Honor and Memory of Santa

To the Beesley family on the passing of your amazing father, husband, grandfather, uncle, brother, friend:

I am sure that you will be inundated with hundreds of stories of the amazing man that many knew only as “Santa.” I had to add my story to the mix. Please bear with me as I try to pay tribute to someone who had a major impact on my life. I am not sure that I can add anything to your memories or ease your pain at all, but I would love to share my memories of Santa. He was the real deal. He was loving, kind, generous, and all around amazing.

The first time one of my children sat on Santa’s lap was in 1988. My son, Michael was only 2 months old when my sister took him to the West Belt Mall (aka Wayne Towne Center). While that polaroid picture has long since been lost (probably sticking in one of my hundreds of photo albums), the memories are clear.

Over the years, I brought my children to see different Santas, but there was only one true Santa, and we have faithfully seen him every year since 1998, with one exception.

In 1998, when Michael (age 10), Derek (age 9), Kellina (age 4), Ryan (age 4), and Sean (almost age 2), wanted to see Santa, my ex husband and I brought the children to Wayne Towne. My ex insisted that we take our own picture and not pay for one of the packages. I was beyond embarrassed, but there was nothing I could do. He refused to allow me to pay. I apologized to Santa, and he just smiled warmly at me and told me, “It’s okay.”

In December 1999, one month after my ex terminated his rights to visit with my five young children, I brought them to see Santa. When he looked up and saw me, he asked, “Hubby not with you this year?” I guess my ex really made more of an impression on Santa than I thought.

I whispered in his ear so the children couldn’t hear that their father had walked out and terminated his rights to see them. Michael was 11, Derek was 10, Kellina and Ryan were 5, and Sean would be 3 in January. Santa hugged me and refused to allow me to pay for the package. He not only gave it to me for free, he slipped money into my pocket and told me to get the children something from him for Christmas.


We continued to see him in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, with him periodically giving me the package for free, and him giving the children free chocolate or an ornament.


Not only did we get an annual photo with Santa, he was part of our family Christmas card each year.

In 2007, I held a photo of Michael because he was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia with the US Navy. Santa told me he was very proud of him.


In 2008, Santa looked up at us when we were next in line, and I burst into tears. He came to me and hugged me. I told him that my mother had died that past June, Michael was away on his first deployment, and Derek was visiting his father out of state. My ex had not seen the children since 1999, but Derek wanted to connect with him, so he went to visit. My heart was broken with three missing that Christmas, and I was feeling lost. He asked me to meet him at K-Mart where he purchased presents for my three youngest children, who were then Kellina and Ryan, 14, and Sean who would be 12 in January.


In 2009, Michael was once again at Naval Station Norfolk and could not be home before Christmas. I dragged my other four to see Santa along with Derek’s girlfriend. Derek had signed a contract with the US Army and was set to leave for basic training in January 2010. Santa had a long conversation with Derek about his time as an Army Ranger. That conversation meant so much to my Derek.

In 2010, Michael was on his second deployment, so I held his photo, but Derek got to come home for a weekend so we could go see Santa. Derek and Santa talked about Derek’s upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.


In August 2011, I called Santa to tell him that Derek had been injured by a PPIED in the Zhari District of Afghanistan. At that point, we did not know if Derek would live or die. He told me he would try to come down and visit, and I was told later that he really tried, but just could not swing a trip to Maryland in the middle of a busy holiday season. It meant the world to me that he tried. Santa told me later that soon after receiving my phone call, he hung a large American flag in his area at Fairfield Home and Gardens in Derek’s honor that remained for the years to follow.

Derek lost both of his legs – christmas-2012his right leg high above the knee, and his left leg at the hip. He lost the use of his right hand, knocked out several teeth, had a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and experienced PTSD. But he was a fighter. He spent 7 months as an inpatient before he was released on March 1, 2012. Santa often checked in with me to follow Derek’s progress.

In December 2012, Derek was in a wheelchair, but he was able to walk short distances on his prosthetics. Because of his extensive injuries, he could not be in his wheelchair for long, so I stood in line and called the kids to join me when I got close to the end.

Derek rode his wheelchair to the exit, and then walked on his prosthetics to Santa, who met him half way, tears running down his face. The people who were waiting in the long line cheered after Santa told them Derek’s story.


That was my favorite year with Santa. Those pictures are the ones I cherish the most. That was my last Christmas with Derek. Derek deployed to Heaven on March 18, 2013. Santa attended Derek’s wake and funeral, even though he himself was not well.

But that was not our last year with Santa.

In 2013, after losing Derek, we took a photo while Santa held on to Derek’s picture. He did the same in 2014 and 2015.

Santa even purchased a gold brick in the Ice Caverns in honor of Derek:brick-in-ice-caverns

Sadly, our annual Christmas photo with Santa will end as of 2015. We were going to see him next weekend, but it was not meant to be. Santa will be celebrating Christmas in Heaven this year.

When I signed on to Facebook on the afternoon of December 2, 2016, I found it flooded with photos of Santa and heartbroken messages from hundreds of people who loved him.

Even though his lines were always long, he took the time that was needed with each and every family. We knew that when we finally reached the front of the line, that he would not rush us. There will never be another Santa like him. Ever.

Just as Derek walked to Santa on his prosthetics in 2012, I picture Derek, waiting at the Gates of Heaven with open arms as Santa approached.

Two wonderful men.

Gone too soon.

Missed by so many.

I will miss the periodic texts that he sent to me simply saying, “God bless you. I love you.” I will forever regret not getting to see him over the last few months.

I will miss you, Santa. Mr. Beesley, you were one of a kind. Christmas will never be the same.

With all my love,


For information on how you can keep Santa Ray alive in the hearts of so many, please go to the link below:

Ray’s Christmas Miracles


Author: tigress5cubs

I have been a single mother to 5 wonderful children since 2000. Michael is 28, Kellina is 22, Ryan is 22 (yes, twins, no, not identical), & Sean is 20. Derek would have been 27 this past year. On July 23, 2011 our world was changed forever. While on patrol in Afghanistan, Derek attempted to rescue another soldier and stepped on an ied resulting in several injuries, including amputations of the legs. He battled his life changing injuries for 20 months before climbing to eternal glory on March 18, 2013. We survived a lot, and we are still climbing that mountain. Come climb with us!

37 thoughts on “In Honor and Memory of Santa”

  1. Wow! What a great story. I’m balling my eyes out. My family loved Santa too! He was a special man and sure will be missed!


  2. What a great tribute to Santa! I am so sorry for the loss of your son and for all you have been through . Please have a merry Christmas 🎄


  3. This is so heartfelt and beautiful.. I wish I was as eloquent to be able to share our story about Santa… he was a kind, loving and generous man. He will never be forgotten by my family. He will always be the spirit and magic of Christmas ….. he is Santa. God Bless you and your beautiful family and peace be with Rays family during this very sad and difficult time. Merry Christmas to all.


  4. Siobhan, I have followed Team Derek on Facebook since the beginning. I had 2 sons in the Army at the time and another Mom shared his page. You know how Army Moms band together. Well, I thought you were strong before, but that was before I knew this back story. You astound me with your strength and, from this story, your humility and gratefulness (is that a word?). I know this story is about Santa and I am praying for him, but please know that I am praying for you and your family, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your story has touched my heart and I don’t have enough words to express how much it meant . May God bless you and your with love peace and prosperity today and always . Thank you for sharing .


  6. Your story made me cry. Such a beautiful story to always have close to your heart. I knew he was a sweet man, but to hear this is just unbelievable! I wish my son could’ve had more than two years visiting him, but I’m grateful to have those two years. He was such a kind soul and will truly be missed!!


  7. Saw your post in a Facebook group of local Moms. It is a beautiful remembrance. Thank you for sharing it; I was crying my eyes out and I never met him.


  8. Since reading about the passing of Santa yesterday I have truly been heartbroken! Thru all the changes life has to offer he has been the one constant for the past 15 years for my family! Thank you for sharing your story! I sat reading it with tears streaming down my face! He truly was such an amazing individual! You sound as though you are as well! Merry Christmas to you and your family!


  9. Thank you so much for sharing that. I’ll treasure my children’s pics with him always! He was the best Santa and amazing human being! RIP


  10. Thanks for sharing …truly a special Santa and person. Amazing memories …my family will miss our yearly visits with him…prayers to you and your family


  11. Much love and blessings to you and your beautiful family. Thank you for sharing such a such a heartfelt and loving tribute to a beloved Santa…I am sure it will warm the hearts ..and perhaps shed a few joyful tears… of Santa’s family . I will treasure the pics and moments I have had with Santa and my grandson…and wishing he could be here for our new granddaughter…. Shine on much love to share !


  12. Siobhan, this was a beautiful memory. Santa sounds like a wonderful man and he leaves a beautiful legacy in all who loved him. You take care and I will be thinking about you and your family on this holiday season. God bless. Jayne Writt (Jimmy Vigilante mom)


  13. Thank you for sharing this story. I truly believe that Derek was there to greet him in heaven. I am so sorry for your loss. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!


  14. Thank you for sharing your story. It truly reinforces one’s faith that there are good people in this world. I’m so very sorry for your losses. He was a wonderful and gentle man; my children had loved him and will miss him as will many more. God Bless and Merry Christmas


  15. A lovely sorry about a wonderful man. I was lucky enough to take my kids to visit Santa on his last day. I took a photo of them sitting on the bench as we were waiting in line. At the time, I barely noticed the American flag in the picture behind them. It now has so much meaning. Thank you for sharing.


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