Naval Officer. Sailor. Family Man. Knighted Santa. GranVida Resident.
Welcome to Santa’s story
(AKA Sir Richard)
The Early Years: Growing Up on the Road
Richard was born and raised in Colorado Springs during the Great Depression. Although his father managed department stores, the family had to move quite often to maintain employment.
From Phoenix, Arizona to Santa Monica, California to Portland, Oregon, they finally settled in Stockton, California in 1946. While moving made it difficult to make friends in grammar school, it made Richard very popular in high school.
“I could tell the kids when my Dad would put out Levi’s or crewneck sweaters for them or silk stockings for their Moms.”
Throughout his life, this instinct for sharing helped instill certain traits in Richard that would affect his life for decades to come.
The War Years: Four Years and Five Days in Korea
In 1950, Richard graduated from Stockton High School. At age 19, he joined the U.S. Navy and was off to Korea. He started as a radar technician and was assigned to the USS Twinning destroyer where he was sent ashore in a fire control party with temperatures hovering at five below zero. While hiding overnight from relentless enemy gunfire, Richard was hit with shrapnel in his knee. He was evacuated to Old Naval Hospital in Hong Kong to recover…and he has avoided snow ever since!
Luck shined on Richard again in the hospital ward. While spending nine months in recovery, an admiral looking for a sailor with “a lot of ribbons to be his driver” found Richard (recipient of both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medals), who then spent the rest of his Navy life touring the Orient. He was later decorated as a Radarman 3rd Class.
“I signed up for four years. But my total length of service during the Korean War was four years and five days.”
College Life and Married Life: Back on the Road Again
After he returned, Richard graduated from San Jose State University in 1958. He had multiple job offers, but Lockheed was paying better, so he began work there as a summer intern.
He also married his college sweetheart, JoAnne. Richard, JoAnne and their three girls (including identical twins) loved to travel. They toured every national park in America, as well as England, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, the Panama Canal, Africa, Bali, Australia and the Orient. They sailed to the British Virgin Islands three times on his sailboat, the Captain Bligh.
Helping to Land a Man on the Moon
Because of his knowledge of electronics, Richard began working with unmanned launched rockets, before being chosen by Northrop to work as an engineer on the Apollo Space Program in Downey, California.
“I got to fraternize with all the engineers and all the astronauts.”
Richard said that the unfortunate explosion on the launching pad that killed Gus Grissom along with fellow Apollo I astronauts, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, was the catalyst for moving away from a very flammable one-system oxygen. The engineers also recommended adding an explosive vault door that astronauts could open from the inside in case of emergencies. These updates led to a perfect manned landing on the moon in July, 1969.
In 1972, Richard moved to Los Angeles to work on the B-1 and then the B-2, a flying wing plane that was so secretive, it was housed in a mile-long, two-story building with no windows! He then retired from Northrop in 1993.
“Over my 35-year career. I was only on layoff for 15 minutes. I was fortunate to work in the aerospace industry all that time.”
Becoming Santa Claus
In 1967, a friend of Richard’s in Pasadena, California owned a boutique shop called Meadow Creek. When Santa Claus got sick, Richard was conned into being his Santa with a fake beard. So, for the next 13 years, he worked weekends during the holidays to bring joy into hundreds of kids’ lives.
“This evolved to being Santa for the whole city of Pasadena on weekends. The money I earned as Santa over the years paid for all of my family’s trips to national parks and other vacations.”
Richard and JoAnne loved sailing, and especially the Ensenada Race, the world’s largest international race, running from Newport, California to Ensenada, Mexico. They sailed this race 14 times—and earned a first, a third and two fourth place finishes. They were also employed by the U.S. Olympic Committee where they worked with sailing teams from around the world during the 1984 Olympic Games.
“In 1985, I made Commodore for the first time at the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club (CBYC). Today, I still proudly wear that patch on my blue blazer.”
Richard has also been blessed to be a Commodore (Chief Officer) three other times: Isthmus Yacht Club on Catalina Island (where JoAnne was also Commodore); the L.A. Harbor Association, which included 12 yacht clubs in the L.A. Basin; and Honorary Staff Commodore of the Southern California Yachting Association, which has jurisdiction over 92 yacht clubs.
In addition, he was on the U.S. Sailing Board of Directors for another four years. In this role, Richard was in charge of the Mallory Trophy (the oldest trophy for U.S. high school sailing). The Mallory Trophy is said to date back to Sir Admiral Nelson.
Here Comes Santa Claus – And It’s Richard, Again
Since first stepping in for his friend to play Santa years ago, Richard has brought the Spirit of Christmas to children across the globe. In fact, he spent six years in China doing tours as Santa.
In 2006, he was invited to Branson, Missouri, for the Santa Claus Conventions, together with over 400 real bearded Santas and again in 2016 with another 900 bearded Santas.
“I even got knighted—in kilts—by the Clan Claus Society and am an upstanding member of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santa Clauses (FORBS) to promote a positive image of Santa.”
The Clan Claus Society was formed in 2008, is now represented in every state and province, and in many countries worldwide. All members are like-minded individuals who join together, share in the Christmas camaraderie and encourage others to uphold the traditions of Scottish Santa Claus persona throughout the year.
Small Town. Great Life.
For the past 50 years, Richard’s fundraising efforts and charitable contributions as St. Nick have made a difference in the lives of thousands. Even today, he continues to be Santa throughout the year.
In February, 2017, Richard and his wife moved to GranVida. As our resident Santa, he understands that it’s still far better to give than to receive—and that’s why he lives with the spirit of Christmas every day.
“I can’t wait to be Santa here at GranVida with my wife, family and friends nearby.”
He and his wife JoAnne are just two of the many people who love the “small town, great life” at GranVida.