Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

October 26, 2013

TC says goodbye to man who devoted life to giving

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"He knew where everything is at," Sarah said while running a hand over the green desk chair that sits at the center of the room where her father sat to work on his projects.

A pile of partially-finished wooden toys sat on a workbench nearby. Jim was known for his custom-made toys and constant and thoughtful gifts.

Sarah noticed her name written on a plastic grocery bag that hung from the ceiling near the door as she moved to leave the room. It was a small lampshade decorated with colorful pictures of shoes.

It was a gift, one her father never had the chance to give.

It's just the kind of thing Jim would bring out at just the right time. She left it hanging where Jim placed it.

Jim never wanted to let anything go to waste, said Lauren.

It was probably the result of being the child of parents who struggled through the Great Depression. But he often argued that he wasn't a hoarder.

And he probably wasn't. He collected many things, but gave away just as many, maybe more.

His father died when he was 15, forcing the teenager to grow up quickly. Jim began working young and helped support his mother until her death.

Despite life's struggles, Jim always found ways to give, Lauren said.

"He refused to let it get him down," she said.

It wasn't until sometime in the 1980s that Jim really found that niche. He had always been a bigger guy, but after moving his family to Central Lake, Jim found what would be his outlet for the following three decades. It was a perfect fit.

From the first time he put on a Santa Claus costume, Jim Draplin was on a mission.

He appeared at a few public events, made special appearances for private and corporate clients and eventually became the Santa who helped Traverse City kickoff the holidays with an appearance in the annual holiday parade downtown.

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