GREENVILLE — As the holiday looms, children sometimes wonder if Santa Claus ever takes time off from his full-time occupation at the North Pole. Parents and grandparents are often asked what Santa does during the “off season” (other 364 days a year), when he is not feeding the reindeer or managing the elves at the magical toyshop. One answer (which I discovered recently) is that Santa Claus likes Texas, and spends a good deal of his time there, helping people discover the wonder of Christmas all year round.
Dave Gauvey, a Greenville native and Greenville High School graduate (Class of 1956) who now resides in Gatesville, Texas, goes by the nickname “Santa Dave.” After spending nearly 20 years in Sales and Marketing, Gauvey went back to college completing 190 semesters hours in three years to complete his Baccalaureate Degree in Business and afterward, earned three Masters degrees. Having taught at various colleges for 20 years, Gauvey went into the Oil and Gas business, and in 2003, he retired to Gatesville, a small Texas community of 15,000 just outside of Fort Hood. Recently, Gauvey was honored by the community of Fort Hood as Volunteer of the Year for his service and devotion to the Fort Hood Santa’s Workshop, a non-profit organization which makes new toys accessible for children of the Fort Hood military community during the holiday season. At Santa’s Workshop Fort Hood, parents browse well-stocked shelves of brand new toys, games and books to make the most appropriate selection for their children.
When asked how he got his start in becoming Santa, Gauvey mentioned that he had been approached by a stranger who thought he strongly resembled the Santa Claus from the 1947 Christmas classic film, Miracle on 34th Street. This stranger (who has since become a close friend) invited him to portray Santa Claus to help homeless families celebrate the holidays on Christmas Eve.
“I had no idea that I would be starting a new career that Christmas Eve,” said Gauvey. “Now, 16 years later, I’m still playing Santa for my friend who invites 500 homeless people to spend the night at one of Dallas’ finest hotels. After being bused in, they are given a royal welcome by hundreds of well-wishers. On Christmas morning after a breakfast at a local church, they return to the ‘cardboards,’ as they say, with a memory to keep them warm until life changes or the next Christmas.”
The same year, Gauvey started volunteering with Santa’s Workshop in Fort Hood. “That (first) year, we provided toys for 5,500 children of the troops,” said Gauvey. “I thought I could provide a little something in the way of cheer to families with a service member deployed to a far off land. The Workshop is all about the Kids.”
Gauvey has learned many lessons over the years portraying Santa Claus to area children and families, and especially when to talk and when to listen. “One day at the workshop, a mother came in with her 11 year old daughter. While the mother talked with one of the volunteers, the young girl decided to talk with Santa. She talked about her school, her home, and life of an 11 year old, in general. I listened. After the girl and her mother left, the volunteer came over and told me that…Mom said she hadn’t had anything to say since the Major and the Chaplain had brought the news of her daddy’s death in a far off land.”
Gauvey says he was honored and humbled by the news that he had been named Volunteer of the Year for 2020. “You meet the greatest people in the country among those that are giving and those that are receiving. At times it’s hard to tell the difference. Even though I won an award from Fort Hood, I know of many, many volunteers that deserved it more than I.”
In addition to portraying Santa Claus for the Fort Hood Santa’s Workshop, Gauvey has also written a children’s book, Santa’s Socks, first published in 2003. He is also an active member of the Coryell Museum and Historical Center in Gatesville.
“Almost seven years ago, I became interested in the life and times of the man that the county, the Museum, and many other places were named for. I spent over two years researching James Coryell, and ended up with a 36-page booklet of his life which is only available at the museum.” said Gauvey, adding, “Supporting local museums and other historical sites help to keep memories alive and working. We keep the past to preserve the future.”
As the Christmas season is drawing nigh, I asked Gauvey, who is 82 years young, what advice he might give to this year’s high school graduating class.
”As a graduate G.H.S in 1956, I guess that I have seen a little more of the world than some, and less than others. I would tell the graduates of 2021 that if you would like to have a full life, become a lifelong learner. Never quit learning — after all there is a reason it is called ‘Commencement,’ ” said Guavey, adding, “Make volunteering a part of your life.”
When asked about what advice Santa Claus might give, as we close out this year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gauvey paused for moment, and said, “Don’t live in the past. Keep it in your memory. It will live most comfortably there, and you can enjoy it far more often. Live in the present, and the future will take care of itself.”
Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for Darke County Media. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 937-569-4314.