Town’s beloved Santa Claus dies of coronavirus weeks before Christmas
Walter Parnham brought festive cheer by dressing up as Santa Claus (Image: Submitted)
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A town's much-loved Santa Claus has died weeks before Christmas after contracting coronavirus in hospital.
Walter Ernest Parnham, known to many as ‘Wally’ or ‘Mick’, brought festive cheer to hundreds every year by donning the red suit and white beard.
In recent years the 79-year-old had to take a step back from Kris Kringle because of health issues but he was still held close to the heart of the community of Wainfleet, Lincolnshire Live reports.
The well-known pensioner suffered a small heart attack about a month ago and recently tested positive for coronavirus while receiving care in Boston Pilgrim Hospital.
The grandfather to four and great grandfather to one passed away on Saturday, November 14.
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His son Carl, 55, who also lives in Wainfleet, says his dad will be remembered as the kind person he was.
He said: "He has been there for me forever. He has always been there for everybody.
"He cut peoples’ hedge down his street when they couldn’t do it."
He added: "I never heard anyone have a bad about him.
"A lot of people have said he will be missed.
"One of the young girls with her kids said she will be walking around the other way to school now because he isn’t there.
"It shows just what an impression he had on people."
Mr Parnham, who would have been 80 in February, was a part of the Wainfleet Theatre Club, regularly helping out with the scenery.
Through this he often dressed up as Santa Claus and attended a number of local schools and events performing as St Nick.
Carl said: "He was Santa in a lot of the local schools for many years.
"In the mid-80s he was the first one at Coronation Hall. He was the Santa that drove on the sleigh through the town every year.
"When the Christmas fair was held there he was always Santa.
"He would go to friend’s houses and knock on the door. He did the Santa at the judo club in Skegness and numerous others that I don’t even know he has done.
"His last one was at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park a couple of years ago."
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Carl says the act cost his dad his own time and money – but says he loved to do it to see other people smile.
He said: "He loved being Santa. He spent quite a lot of money doing Santa. He was very community spirited.
"Even now in his old age he sat out the front and the kid go past to go to the school and call him Santa."
Such was his impact, the funeral directors organising his farewell have told the family they want to honour him with a ride through town to give everyone a chance to say a proper goodbye due to the restricted numbers who can attend because of the ongoing pandemic.
Carl, who has been overwhelmed with messages about his dad, said: "I wanted to reply to them all but there has been so many.
"So many nice things have been said.
"Parkers are organising his funeral. When I rang them they said we can’t have a huge funeral but they actually want to take him round town.
"People won’t be able to come to the church to pay their respects so they want to give people to chance to say their goodbyes to him."
Wainfleet Theatre Club have also paid their own tribute to a man who gave so much to his community.
It wrote: "Many of us associated with Wainfleet Theatre Club are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Wally Parnham.
"Wally was an active member of the club for more than four decades and was an ever present member of our team throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s and into the noughties.
"Although never seen on the stage, his enthusiastic drumming ensured his presence was well known and much loved by our audiences.
"However, it was his hard work and dedication behind the scenes that made him such an invaluable club member.
"Before the advent of more strict Health and Safety legislation, Wainfleet Theatre Club regularly performed at a variety of different venues and it was always Wally who towed our purpose built trailer full of props, scenery and costumes to those places.
"Although his declining health prevented him in recent years from participating in many of his favourite activities,
"Wally remained a popular and much loved man of the town. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him."