The Santa at the Concord Mall in Wilmington, Delaware, might be the real deal. That’s according to Gina Wilbur, who captured a picture of her local mall Santa coming over to thank a veteran for his service.
“Christmas shopping with Cavan and took a second to sit on a bench near Santa’s workshop … then Santa steps away from his Chair … he walks over to a veteran sitting on the wall … as Santa approaches, the veteran stands and Santa takes a knee,” Wilbur posted to Facebook.
“I hear Santa telling the gentleman, in a soft voice, of others he knew who served. He shakes his hand with genuine gratefulness thanking him for his service and returns to the children. Best moment of my day.”
Wilbur posted the photo on Facebook hoping to identify the veteran and share the sweet moment.
The veteran in the photo, 93-year-old Bob Smiley, also thinks the Concord Mall Santa who approached him is pretty authentic. “Boy! I got the impression this was the real Santa Claus,” Smiley told the Delaware News Journal. “He was so soft-spoken and obviously kind. I’d say he’s the real deal.”
This Santa knows sign language and greets folks, young and old, every day.
As for WWII veteran Smiley, he is a widower who has 10 children, 26 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. He served in Germany during the war.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to men like this that have made such a life-changing decision, to give up themselves, be willing to lay down their life even for other people,” Santa told Fox 29 News Philadelphia after the station reunited the pair for an on-air interview.
“In my generation, it was duty,” Smiley said. Out of 35 boys in his high school class who fought in WWII, he said that five of them were killed.
In real life, the Concord Mall Santa has a personal connection to veterans. “His father was in WWII the same as me and also, his father was in the Korean War and has since passed away,” Smiley told Good Morning America.
Santa said that showing kindness shouldn’t be limited to just the Christmas season.
“We have that opportunity every day,” he told Fox 29.