‘Santa’ Ron­nie Wor­thing­ton con­tin­ues a long­time tra­di­tion of play­ing Kris Kringle to Cedar­town chil­dren.

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By Kathrine Kirby

When “Santa” Ron­nie Wor­thing­ton first put on his suit at 19 years old, he didn’t know that he would be start­ing a life­long tra­di­tion of mak­ing chil­dren smile. Now that he nat­u­rally has that look, he is known by many chil­dren in the area as “their Santa” and is a part of their fam­ily’s yearly tra­di­tions.

“I will never for­get when my mother asked me to be Santa Claus for her kinder­garten pro­gram,” Wor­thing­ton said. “Kids look at you and it is magic. They don’t see a man in a suit — they re­ally see Santa.”

Wor­thing­ton cred­its his love of be­ing Santa to the work his grea­tun­cle did when he was a child.

“My great un­cle was Santa at Alan’s 5 and 10 Cent Store in Cedar­town when I was a kid and the town was in its prime,” Wor­thing­ton said. “I fi­nally rec­og­nized him as Un­cle Rob once I started to get older and re­ally no­ticed his eyes be­hind the fake beard. Un­til that day, he was my Santa and I loved to go see him ev­ery year.”

The older mem­bers of the com­mu­nity will still ask af­ter his un­cle who they re­mem­bered as Santa.

When Wor­thing­ton’s not work­ing over­time as a jolly old elf, he works full time at his day job at the Home De­pot in Cedar­town. He hadn’t planned on get­ting another job af­ter he re­tired, but his wife took steps while he was out of town to make it hap­pen.

“I was in Ne­braska pheas­ant hunt­ing when my wife Ruth took it upon her­self to ap­ply for me a full-time job at Home De­pot. It had just been built in Cedar­town,” Wor­thing­ton said. “I got a phone call af­ter I got home from my trip, and it was Home De­pot ask­ing me in for an in­ter­view. I told them I never ap­plied for a job, and they kept in­sist­ing that I had in­deed turned in an ap­pli- cation. I de­cided to ac­cept the in­ter­view any­way. When Ruth got home she ex­plained what had hap­pened.”

Wor­thing­ton said that his in­ter­view went won­der­fully and that he has been work­ing as a full­time em­ployee of Home De­pot since it first opened 11 years ago.

“I thought I would re­turn the fa­vor, since my wife was nice enough to find me the per­fect job,” Wor­thing­ton laughed. “I ap­plied for her to work as an over the road truck driver. They have been call­ing her for the last four years try­ing to get Ruth to come to work. Ruth is cur­rently sched­uled to be­gin teach­ing at Ge­or­gia High­lands Col­lege in the spring.”

Part of the Cedar­town Home De­pot hol­i­day tra­di­tion has been hav­ing Wor­thing­ton set up in an area of the store just so lo­cal chil­dren can come and see Santa with­out the ex­tremely long lines and get a pic­ture. His daugh­ter Ronni also co­or­di­nates pri­vate ses­sions for peo­ple who have a more spe­cific Santa ex­pe­ri­ence or pic­ture in mind.

“This year we started do­ing pho­tog­ra­phy ses­sions which has been a lot of fun,” Wor­thing­ton said. “Be­tween that and Home De­pot I have got­ten to see a lot of kids.”

His dis­tinc­tive way of talk­ing with the chil­dren has made him very pop­u­lar ac­cord­ing to Wor­thing­ton.

“I have a knack with kids,” Wor­thing­ton said. “I can get on their level and I re­ally love to play with them. What­ever my grand­son re­quests, we do — whether that be play with trucks or pre­tend we are camp­ing, that is what we do. My fa­ther was the same way. I just love spend­ing time with them.”

Wor­thing­ton said that a child will spot him and will in­stantly try to come make friends. He said the trick is sim­ply that he is re­ally their age, not 66 years old.

The first thing that usu­ally hap­pens is the kids pull the beard.

“The shock on their face and look in their eyes when they see that the beard does not move is great,” Wor­thing­ton said. “It is like they are think­ing uh-oh this is re­ally him.”

Wor­thing­ton said that he has about six kids who have al­ways known him as Santa Claus and will ac­cept no sub­sti­tute.

“The best thing about do­ing Santa at Home De­pot is that I can re­ally take my time and talk with the kids,” Wor­thing­ton ex­plained. “They might have ques­tions and they may not know what they re­ally want for Christ­mas. I try to re­mind them ‘Hey you only have a week to de­cide. Are you go­ing to be happy if I bring you any­thing? What if you get a goat?’ It re­ally makes them think it through.”

He takes care to make sure that Santa “dis­ap­pears” when he leaves so the kids never see him out of his suit.

“Whether I am at the li­brary, Home De­pot or any­where as Santa, I wait un­til the last per­son has gone or make sure there is a clear pas­sage out the back where I can­not be seen,” Wor­thing­ton said.

He has even had to talk with some chil­dren about their be­hav­ior af­ter see­ing how they treated their par­ents. He said it is im­por­tant to him that they un­der­stand they have to re­spect and be kind to others.

“More kids this year than any year have ac­tu­ally asked for world peace for Christ­mas. It is both kind and scary,” Wor­thing­ton said. “If our chil­dren are sens­ing some­thing is wrong with the world, we need to fix it.”

The day af­ter Christ­mas, Santa dis­ap­pears and Ron­nie goes back to his reg­u­lar life and rou­tine.

“The day af­ter Christ­mas I get a hair­cut and the beard comes off,” he laughed. “The year lengthy process of grow­ing out Santa’s beard will be­gin again, and I will get to be a grand­par­ent only for a while. In the mean­time, I hope ev­ery­one truly has a Merry Christ­mas and that they cel­e­brate the real rea­son for Christ­mas, the birth of Je­sus.”

Con­trib­uted photo

Cianna Ste­wart, the daugh­ter of Sky Ste­wart, reads a book with “Santa” Ron­nie Wor­thing­ton of Cedar­town. This is Wor­thing­ton’s 19th year ap­pear­ing as Santa.

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