Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

October 26, 2013

TC says goodbye to man who devoted life to giving

TRAVERSE CITY — How do you eulogize a man who meant as much to the community as he did to his family and friends?

Sarah, Leah and Aaron Draplin wrestled with that question Tuesday afternoon while they tried to organize thoughts they might address this morning at St. Francis Church during a memorial service for their father, Jim Draplin.

Some people knew him as Jim or Draplin, others knew him as Santa Jim but to thousands of children, he was simply Santa Claus.

He was a man who lived his life to give his gifts to the world.

The 70-year-old machine tool salesman always had a joke ready to lighten a mood or break the ice. He never shaved his long white beard. And he never forgot a child's name.

"I never saw him without a beard," laughed his wife of 43 years, Lauren. Her husband looked so similar to classic renditions of Santa Claus that he would attract stares from children in the middle of the summer while wearing shorts and his trademark "watermelon shirt."

He didn't take offense, either, often shooting a wink and a nod to the curious child or quietly whispering a "be good," to the awestruck youngster.

His house in Lake Ann surrounded his son Aaron with reminders on Tuesday while he talked about his father. A wall clad with a collection of vintage beer steins, a yard full of custom bird feeders and a world-class collection of Mickey Mouse memorabilia all bombarded Jim's 40-year-old son.

But it is his downstairs workshop that says the most about Jim.

Shelves bustle with parts and pieces he had scavenged during the past 20 years. A flick of the light switch near the door to the small room sets off a rainbow of moving light cast from a slow-turning party light overhead.

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