Christmas in Southeastern North Carolina will be a bit different this year, not because of the unseasonably warm temperatures, but because of the absence of a man who made Christmas so very special to many of us over the past two decades.
On Tuesday, Dec. 1, Thomas Carlyle Grimes (a.k.a. Santa Claus) passed away peacefully at Duke Medical Center. This larger than life character was my friend, my Brother in Christ, and (in my opinion) the Real Santa Claus! The void that Thomas’ death has left in our community is quite evident as this Christmas approaches.
Thomas’ 3XL red suit hangs seemingly abandoned in his closet this year as a reminder of joyous days gone by. For the past 15 years, my family, like many of yours, looked forward to the Holiday activities which always included a visit by our personal Santa Claus.
Thomas was a natural for the role he played so faithfully in Bladen, Robeson, Cumberland, and Columbus Counties. From Christmas Shows to Community Parades, Thomas was born for the part of Santa Claus…. His beard was real, his belly was real, his jolly spirit, and his “Ho-Ho-Ho” was real – He was real!
Thomas would go wherever he was called upon to “Minister” through being Old Saint Nick. He had even been known to visit hospitals across the state taking gifts to kids who could not be home for his Christmas eve visit… It was my honor to even accompany him as his toy-toting Elf on one such visit.
Thomas’ favorite role to play was not a role at all, but an expression of his faith during our annual Christmas program at Dublin First Baptist Church. This gentle giant would make his grand entrance each year and march down the aisle to the manger where he would remove his cap & kneel before his Savior in an act of solemn worship. My prayer is that when we think of the legacy Thomas Grimes has left behind, we would remember his challenge to remember the reason for the Season… the Child laid in the manger – the Precious Lord Jesus.
Thomas leaves behind his wife, Cecile Hunt Grimes (Mrs. Claus) and daughter, Sebrina of Tar Heel, along with his sisters, a host of grandchildren, family, friends, his beloved Church family & thousands of children who sat upon his knee over the years … and his Pastor who misses his friend dearly, but will never forget him — especially when Christmas comes around.
Cameron McGill, pastor
Dublin First Baptist Church