Come-from-away has a blast donning red suit
Claudia Jaques remembers driving down into Grates Cove one summer to visit a friend. A young boy happened to be close by and watched anxiously as she got out of her truck.
“He recognized her vehicle,” Claudia’s husband John told The Compass.
“And then I stepped out of the truck and he went, ‘ Oh. It’s just Mrs. Claus,’” continued Claudia with a little laugh. “She pales in comparison to Santa.”
John and Claudia may not be full-time residents of Grates Cove, but since buying a home in the coastal community 10 years ago, the two Ontario farmers have certainly made an impression.
Although they don’t spend Christmas in Grates Cove, they always make sure to come back for a few weeks in November and early December. That’s in part due to the fact John has become the person to call on for any local event needing a man in a red suit.
“They treat us so well here that just any way we can give back to the community, we certainly want to do that,” said John, whose long white beard is completely legit.
John was mindful of the fact being a come-from-away might work against him with respect to taking on the role of jolly old St. Nicholas.
“I know in Ontario and our local Santa Claus parade, one guy has done it for years, and I said, ‘I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes here.’”
But they were having trouble finding anyone to fill those boots in Grates Cove, so John agreed to give it a go. After he was warmly received there, Bay de Verde came looking for a Santa Claus, as did Old Perlican and Lower Is- land Cove. In addition to parades, John puts on the suit for local seniors suppers, seniors homes, parties and after-school programs. Claudia also suits up as Mrs. Claus for the Grates Cove parade.
“It’s usually a busy time, but it’s fun,” said John. “Just looking at the eyes of the little kids … it’s just worth every effort. We feel blessed to be able to do stuff like that.”
Finding Grates Cove
The Jaques first came to Newfoundland over 30 years ago and loved it. They always intended to find a way back to the island, and after returning in 2004 to take part in a softball tournament, they did some snooping around and purchased a home in Little Catalina. Deciding they wanted to live in a community with more open space, the Jaques found the right property in Grates Cove a year later.
“Little Catalina was nice, but you couldn’t see out into the ocean,” said John.
Their home in Grates Cove does indeed have a great view of the water, but what truly made their decision the right one was the people.
“We live in the country (in Thamesville, Ont.), so we like to help people out, and everybody helps everybody,” he said. “But here, it’s one step beyond that. Everybody was welcoming us with open arms … We fell in love with it.”
When they come back for the pre-Christmas festivities, the Jaques always have something special for friends in Grates Cove. Claudia makes gift bags with homemade snacks. This year she shared homemade soap.
“We can’t give back enough,” she said. “They’ve just taken us into their community so much. And nobody comes knocking without something in their hands … we always feel bad. So Christmas, we like to give back.”
Claudia and John Jaques split their time between Thamesville, Ont., and Grates Cove.
John Jaques often finds himself seated in a sleigh this time of year.