LIFE AS SANTA
2 of Whatcom County’s Kristopher Kringles spread joy each yearBy Bill Helm Editor
MAPLE FALLS — Ron Baxter was “maybe 11 or 12” when he first thought about dressing as Santa Claus.
“My cousin’s husband, a big man, came by my grandmother’s house wearing his beautiful Santa suit,” said Baxter, who for other than a short stay (relatively speaking) in Oklahoma has lived his life in Washington.
“I told him, ‘that suit’s so cool,’” Baxter said.
Baxter recalled how his first Santa suit was more like a “glorified pajama suit.”
“It was hideous looking and it had a cotton beard,” he said. “For my son’s first Christmas I dressed up in that.”
Then, one day for work, Baxter dressed up as Santa. Not … in that suit.
A Class of 1978 graduate of Sehome High School, Rich Baxter has actually been dressing as Ol’ Saint Nicholas for about 45 years. He recalled recently how Christmas was his grandmother’s favorite time of the year.
Baxter himself fell pretty hard for Christmas, too. He proposed to his latewife on Christmas Eve, in his Santa suit.
“Lost her a year ago last July,” Baxter said. “She had lupus, but she was my Mrs. Claus. She only played Mrs. Claus a few times.”
Married just shy of 21 years, Baxter said his Mrs. Claus “was one heck of a lady.”
Santa: 2 of Whatcom County’s Kris Kringles spread joy each year
Continued from C3
“When she was live the house was decorated for Christmas year-round,” Baxter said.
Loved her so much, Baxter said, that he’d introduce his wife as “my better seven-eighths because I only felt like oneeighth of a person without her.”
Recently, Baxter dressed as Santa at the Sumas Christmas In the Park event, Dec. 5 at Sumas Community Park. This was Baxter’s first event as Santa since he returned to Washington earlier this year. Baxter’s children and grandchildren all live in Washington, he said.
“My grandkids call me Papa Claus,” Baxter said. “Now that I’m here they think that’s the greatest thing.”
Baxter has played Santa for so long, he said he lives it year-round.
“I’ve got street wear Santa gear, reds and greens,” Baxter said. “I’ve always got my red tennis shoes or my top hat.”
‘The looks on their faces’
Blaine residents Jim and Johanna Skin-
ner dress each year as Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Participating this year at the Ferndale Christmas festivities at Pioneer Village on Dec. 3, Jim Skinner has been portraying Santa Claus for 20 years, the past 15 with his own beard.
Johanna told the story about the first time her husband dressed as Kristopher Kringle.
“We were at a party on Christmas Eve,” she recalled. “We sang at the end of the program, and he came in as Santa. Nobody recognized him.”
Johanna made her husband that first suit.
“Once he retired he did it regularly until COVID messed it up for us,” she said.
With engagements this year at Ferndale, Lynden and Bellingham, Jim Skinner said his favorite thing about being Santa Claus is the kids.
“The looks on their faces, especially the ones who throw themselves at you,” Skinner said. “It’s the enthusiastic ones who make it fun.”
-- Contact Bill Helm at email@example.com.
Jim Skinner of Blaine has dressed as Santa Claus for 20 years, the past 15 with his own beard. Recently, Skinner and his wife appeared as Santa and Mrs. Claus at Ferndale’s Christmas festivities at Pioneer Village. (Bill Helm/ Lynden Tribune)
A man who cares enough to be funny
Wayne Gile entertained troops, now enjoys his retirement in LyndenBy Carla Adelmann For the Tribune
LYNDEN — As a photojournalist, I have found that everyone has a story to tell, especially someone who has lived on this earth for 65 years or more.
So having received an assignment to do a piece for Encore, I headed for the Lynden Community/Senior Center. Upon arriving, I asked the receptionist if she knew of anyone who was there who had an interesting character or has had an interesting life.
Kim Schlomer, who works as the bookkeeper and administrative assistant, told me right away, “Well, an interesting character is Wayne Gile who likes to tell jokes, and he has had an interesting life. He entertained the troops.”
The receptionist pointed to a gentleman sitting in the dining room where lunch was about to be served. I immediately sat in the open seat next to Wayne and asked if I could talk with him over lunch and write a few lines about his life for the paper.
His response was, “I think I could boast a little.”
But before I could ask him anything, a woman announced we were going to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I felt privileged to be a part and realized it was a long time since I put my hand on my heart and re-committed my allegiance to America, which I gladly did.
‘Uncle Sam called me’
After saying grace, another gentleman sitting at our table asked me if he could buy me lunch. I told him I already bought lunch but thanked him. The older generation of people in Lynden are people to be treasured and the younger generation can learn a lot from just being around them.
Gabriel, for example, a young man who sat on my right whose wife works at the center, told me he has a good time with the seniors during lunch, and playing Bingo with them afterward.
Gile was born in January 1934, and grew up in Ruthven, Iowa. Later he moved to the Seattle area where he lived for more than 65 years. On one of his early years, he said with a smile, “Uncle Sam called me.”
He was happy to serve our country, and while serving a two-year term in the army with orders to go to France, Gile traveled through New Jersey, Newfoundland, Scotland, Frankfurt Germany, and finally got on a train that took him to South Central France.
While there he met Dave Towmey, a professional
Clown, “Happy the Clown,” who got Gile and two of Gile’s buddies to join his special services entertainment group.
Their show traveled to many orphanages and military posts on the west coast of France.
“The children had next to nothing,” Gile said. “Happy made them feel good.”
Gile has lived in Lynden now for twoand-one-half years and said he comes to the community center most days. During our interview, I was offered a piece of cake that Gile had brought to share with his friends at the center. It was amazing, and even more amazing when I found
out Gile made it himself from scratch. The cake was gone in a flash.
Always keeping busy
Since Gile’s time in the army, he has seen his friend Happy three times. The last time was at the Seattle Center when Dave Towmey (Happy the Clown) was the ring master for all the entertainment that night and had set up a surprise for Gile.
Towmey told Gile and his wife just where to sit. During the show, Happy announced that Gile, who had served with him in the army’s special services group, was there, and had Gile and his wife Bobbi stand up and take a bow in the spotlight. Gile and his wife were thrilled and humbled.
Wayne and Bobbi were married 24 years, during which time Gile worked for Boeing for close to 40 years in research and development. One of the projects Gile worked on was the Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner, the world’s first high-altitude commercial transport and the first fourengine airliner in scheduled domestic service.
Nowadays, Gile likes to bake for his friends at the center, enjoys watching nature programs on TV, and is thinking of taking square-dancing lessons once again like he did 30 years ago, but he said, “not sure yet.”
Tammy Yoder to retire from Lynden ChamberBy Bill Helm Editor
LYNDEN — It’s not that long ago – 2011 to be exact – when Tammy Yoder began working at the Lynden Chamber of Commerce.
On Dec. 31, Yoder will wrap things up on her career in marketing and advertising, and will step away from her duties at the chamber.
However, Yoder said she’ll be sure to help train her replacement, and even “fill in if needed for vacations and other times.”
Gary Vis, the chamber’s executive director, recalled recently that Yoder is the third person to hold the position of marketing and events coordinator in the past 20-plus years.
As marketing and events coordinator, Yoder has organized all the various components for Chamber-produced events, such as member-only networking events, Farmers Day Parade, Northwest Raspberry Festival and Northwest Lighted Christmas Parade.
According to Vis, Yoder has also worked with chamber members, event sponsors, community members, volunteers and other coordinators for components within chamber events such as the Curt Maberry 3-on-3 Memorial Classic and the Razz and Shine Car Show, as well as other outside entities putting on programs concurrently with Chamber events.
“Although Tammy’s daily presence and friendship will be missed by the chamber team, our members, and our office volunteers, she will still be very active in the community, and according to her even helping at a chamber event or two when she’s able,” Vis said. “Tammy’s dedication to a highquality event, putting in the extra effort with vendors, chamber members, sponsors and others, despite sometimes difficult circumstances, helped greatly in making each event a treasured memory for those who attended or participated, and those talents will missed.”
Vis also explained how Yoder has brought “a number of volun-tolds to our help at our events, including her husband Dale, daughter Katie and husband Rusty, and her son Clark, each of whom put in hundreds of hours over the years to help Tammy, the chamber and the community,” Vis said. “The fact the chamber has waiting lists of vendors and musical talent wanting to participate in our events is a testament to her great work, though it also likely helps we never issued her a taser, her most requested piece of equipment to deal with problems.”
At the top of Yoder’s list of priorities right
now is helping her husband, who recently finished treatment for cancer. A cancer survivor herself, Yoder said recently it’s now “time for me to lend more support to him on the farm and for us to go sit by bonfires and watch the sunset now and then.”
Yoder will continue with her duties on the Lynden Downtown Business Association board of directors and Lynden Dollars for Scholars committee. She’ll also continue participating on the Lynden School District’s facilities planning committee where she has helped organize successful school bond and
Yoder also gives her time to the Lynden Parent Teacher Association food booth at the Northwest Washington Fair, serves on her church board, and is a founder of the Backpack Buddies program, a meal program for students who need non-school day meals at home, as well as other needed supplies to help make each students educational success more likely.
Yoder said Backpack Buddies “needs more attention to keep it strong.” She’s also working on “a major project with local rasp-
berries for the DLBA.”
When she’s not otherwise working more than the average person, Yoder hopes to golf “more than 2-3 times a year” and ride bikes “a lot like I used to do.”
“I will still be involved in the planning of the Northwest Raspberry Festival,” Yoder said. “A few people have said to me, ‘you know you will still be helping at all of the events.’”
Vis explained that as the Lynden Cham-
Yoder: To retire from Lynden Chamber of Commerce
ber continues to refine the marketing and events coordinator position on paper “we’re keeping our eyes out and ears open for those interested in the position.”
“A combination of love of the Lynden community, desire to help sponsors and chamber members succeed, and keep events on track to success isn’t for everybody,” Vis said. “But for the right person, it is a very rewarding and personally fulfilling experience.”
Approaching her retirement, Yoder said recently that she is “proud of a lot of what we do at the chamber.”
“Other events have called and asked for guidance and information because they have heard from vendors how well run our events,” Yoder said. “Many of our volunteers come back event-after-event to help, which I assume because we try to keep it fun for them and give thanks to them many ways. We have expanded the Northwest Raspberry Festival and reworked the harvest festival with Downtown Trick or Treat.
A lot of work, no doubt. But Yoder said she’s had “an absolute blast the past 12 years.”
“The chamber has been a great fit for me, and I enjoy seeing families having fun without spending much money,” Yoder said.
Yoder also said that she has been honored by many people during her career with the Lynden Chamber "but I owe a huge thank you to the friends who came to volunteer event after events for all these years and to my family who are a great support for me volunteering for all the events."
-- Contact Bill Helm at bill@lyndentribune. com.