One of Santa’s biggest fans received one final gift, courtesy of Langford Fire Rescue.
Bev Sutton had never missed a Santa Run and as she lay bedridden, her family wanted her to see Santa one last time.
Lt. Paul Obersteller had been asked to don the red suit and white beard for the department’s annual Christmastime cruise through the city. He expected to “act happy and goofy” in the role.
Two days later he was asked to make a special visit to the Sutton house, where Bev lay dying of cancer.
“She was pretty sick and it was terminal. This was going to be her last Christmas,” Obersteller recalled. “Without even thinking about it, I said ‘yes.’”
When the truck stopped outside her home Dec. 24, about 60 neighbours gathered around. Obersteller went in alone and sat on her bed.
It had been days since Bev had spoken, her son Dean said. But when she saw her visitor, she managed one word: “Unbelievable.”
“She recognized me as Santa and squeezed my hand. It was one of her last wishes, to see Santa on Christmas Eve,” Obersteller said.
The firefighter admitted he was flushed with emotion upon hearing that Bev passed away at age 68 Dec. 27.
The Suttons moved to Langford in 1970 and Dean remembers his mother’s excitement upon seeing Santa travelling down the street in a lit-up truck.
“My mom freaked out,” he recalled. “Every year it was a real big deal. Her excitement made it a family tradition.”
The Santa Run was always anticipated in the Sutton house, as popular as the family’s seafood feasts. When Bev saw firefighters give her children candy canes, she started buying chocolate for them.
“We got to throw chocolate at Santa, but it had to land on his lap. If you missed you blew it,” Dave said. His mom made a rule that anyone throwing chocolate had to be at least 10 years old.
Now Dean has two children, 10 and 12, and both throw chocolate to Santa.
Due to her weak condition, Bev couldn’t go outside to see the truck pass by this time. Knowing how important the occasion was to his wife, Lloyd Sutton asked his neighbour, Langford Fire Rescue Lt. Kim Reach, if Santa might make a special trip.
The department, and Obersteller, were happy to oblige.
“It can’t get more inspiring than this happening on Christmas Eve,” said Fire Chief Bob Beckett. “That’s what Christmas is all about. I am incredibly grateful we were able to do this. It brought tear to my eyes.”