Bill Beeler, who has volunteered as Santa Claus for 57 years, will be honored Saturday from 2-4 p.m. at the First Christian Church in Brazil. The celebration is sponsored by the Christmas in the Park Committee. Mayor Kenny Crabb signed a proclamation designating Nov. 22 as Bill Beeler Day.
The Proclamation states:
"Whereas, for fifty-seven (57) years William "Bill" Beeler has been Santa Claus here in Clay County and the City of Brazil bringing joy, smiles, holiday spirit and the mystique of Santa Claus to adults and youngsters alike during the Christmas holiday season; and
Whereas, During those years of dedicated service to the citizens and children of this community, Bill Beeler has become a Christmas institution in the City of Brazil and Clay County with his warm and sincere laughter and pleasant approach to those of us who over the years have sat on his lap during the Christmas season, by flying into Pell's parking lot in a helicopter to begin the Christmas season for many years, by appearing at hundreds of Christmas parties by civic clubs and organizations, churches, private businesses, and at other places and by appearing at Christmas parades in his sleigh and reindeer all these years to open the Christmas season in Clay County; and
Whereas, in honor of Bill Beeler's contribution to the City of Brazil and Clay County and the Christmas holiday season for 57 years as Santa Claus, it is fitting that the City of Brazil recognize his service as another Christmas season nears."
Jeanne Burris, Co-chair of the Christmas in the Park Committee, said. "This is just a small way we can give back to Bill for his timeless and countless hours of volunteering to the community for 57 years."
Beeler said that he quit high school in his senior year and joined the Navy. He received his military discharge in 1946 and that was the first year he volunteered to play Santa.
The father of two daughters, Lisa Wallen and Anita Gaskill, Beeler has three grandchildren and one great granddaughter. Playing Santa has not been his only community involvement.
Beeler has been a Commander at the VFW. He was the Brazil City Fire Chief for nine and a half years. He said he's the only Brazil Fire Chief to be president of the Indiana Fire Chiefs Association. And Beeler has held two terms as Master of the Knightsville Masonic Lodge 409.
"I feel like this is my community," Beeler said. "I owe my community something."
Beeler was asked how much longer he planned to be Santa. "Just as long as I can," he answered with a big Santa grin. "I'm not wanting to quit; that's for sure. I'm not giving up on it.
"Those kids mean a lot to me," Beeler continued with a nostalgic expression. "That's what it's for. It's for the kids."