Some moments from our visit:
The best part of here: It’s quiet, and the people, so nice.
To improve this world: I encourage everyone to pray, every day.
Book that means the most: The Bible.
Perfect day: Communing with my good friends.
Charity of choice: I try to share with all.
Favorite sound: Birds chirping.
Favorite smell: Flowers.
My motivation: People.
Most proud: Attending mass every day.
Remember me for: Putting the interests of others first.
Something everyone knows: I “AM” SANTA CLAUS, exclaimed with a wink and hearty, knowing laugh!
Like Rich, Ray was a photographer, kindred spirits sharing an eye for capturing life’s magical moments, typically after helping to create them. This line in Sayer’s piece captured me. “Unlike the iconographic character he portrayed, Santa Ray Eldridge was not frozen in time.” Alas, not in body, but surely in spirit, as Ray’s pure “goodness” will carry on as we remember his life, and pass along his story and messages to future generations.
I asked Ray back in 2006 the one question he wanted answered, and from whom. He responded simply: “My wife, tell me about Heaven.” He knows all about it now. So maybe he really was Old St. Nick himself reincarnated, or perhaps it was simply Saint Ray, walking among us, who so believed in Christmas, but more importantly, believed in kindness, generosity, selflessness, fun and humanity; and he carried and lived the spirit of Christmas 365 days each of his 85 years.
Sayer’s memorial to Ray, “A True Saint.” can be viewed by clicking the slideshow icon above. Do yourself a favor — spend three minutes with Ray through Rich’s eyes, then pass along the joy.
Merry, Merry to my “loyals.” It is for you that I do.
Below is a story that appeared in the Meadville Tribune in May 2009 a day after Eldridge's death.