It was the Christmas of 1969 when 18-year-old Tom Mitchell was asked to be a stand-in Santa Claus for the Royersford Jaycees. Just two times as Santa, he was hooked for a lifetime and became the real deal. For 49 years until he unofficially retired in 2008 (officially retired in 2011), he was Santa Claus.
In August 1970, he and Kathleen Fedorsic started to date and were married in 1971. Kathleen became Santa’s driver. It was 1983 that she became Mrs. Santa Claus. When they were young, their children, Tommy and Wendy, were elves — Jingle and Belle. The love and joy of life was passed onto their five grandchildren.
Know by all as “Big Tom,” Tom made it a mission to grow his belly so no padding was needed. In 1970, when he purchased his first Santa suit, it was size XXL — several suits later, he wore XXXXL.
This Mitchell family was a very busy family. Tom’s daily job was a car salesman over the years. Kathleen’s love of children had her caring for several children. Each child was like her own. Later, she went to work for Aetna, retiring in 2011.
In 2011, Tom lost his right leg below the knee. The Mitchells adapted to this life change. Tom, on his electric scooter with his sidekick, Fannie (a shih-tzu), can be found all over the place. There wasn’t a group or event, especially in the Phoenixville area, that he wasn’t involved with. He was the Ambassador of Phoenixville.
From 2010 to 2015, Tom and Kathleen created “Costumes for a Cause.” They lent body costumes out for charitable events at no charge. This project was handed over the Phoenixville Area High School Honor Society and is still going strong.
He fell and broke his left leg in 2015 — so severely that it needed to be amputated. But Tom always seems to bounce back. He now uses an electric chair; with his prosthesis, he uses a walker around the house.
Today, Kathleen is once again the driver, as Tom goes to dialysis three times a week for a little over fours each time. He needed to slow down somewhat. So with retirement, they moved to Royersford to a new place that suits his needs. Tom can still be found on his chair with Fannie riding around Royersford — weather permitting.
Santa still keeps his naughty and nice lists. He is known to deliver to the “naughtiest” lumps of coal — but not actually lumps of coal. Mrs. Claus whips up these up in her kitchen for Santa to use.
CHRISTMAS COAL for the Naughty!
3 tbsp. butter
6 cups marshmallows
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chocolate creamed filled cookies — crushed
5 cups Rice Krispies Cocoa cereal
Black food gel
In a large bowl, crush cookies and combine with cereal. Set aside. Over medium-high heat, melt butter. Turn the heat down to lowest setting, and add marshmallows. Stir until mixture is melted down for several minutes. Add in vanilla. Add black food coloring a little at a time until you get a black coal color. Continue until mixture is completely melted. Remove from heat, and stir in cereal. Combine until all is black. By teaspoon drop onto greased baking sheet, and shape into coal shared pieces. They should cool for 25 to 30 minutes before eating.
Surprise your naughty family and friends with the old tradition of putting a piece of coal (cookie) in the toe of their Christmas stocking!
I wish for you all the love and joy that the holidays bring!
Let Better hear from you: email@example.com. Search YouTube for “Look Who’s Cooking with Bette Banjack,” as well phoenixvillenews.com (search bar: Banjack) for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.” Her book, “2 Cups of Yesterday,” is available at Gateway Pharmacy or by contacting her.