Sea­sonal pres­ence

Come-from-away has a blast don­ning red suit

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON ed­i­tor@CBN­com­pass.ca

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.”

PHOTO BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

Clau­dia and John Jaques split their time be­tween Thamesville, Ont., and Grates Cove.

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

John Jaques of­ten finds him­self seated in a sleigh this time of year.

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