Henry and Carol Waring are keeping the Christmas magic alive for many local residents, as he dons a red Santa suit and she wears a red Mrs. Claus robe with white trim, outside their home in Washougal.
They have lived at 723 24th St., for 36 years. For the better part of 11 of those years, the Warings have greeted passersby with waves, exclamations of “Merry Christmas!” and distributions of candy canes.
Carol said her favorite part occurs as children’s eyes light up when they notice the (wooden) reindeer and sleigh.
She and Henry are available for free photos through Saturday, Christmas Eve, from 6 to 8 p.m.
“We’re just out for fun,” Carol said. “Santa asks ‘what do you want for Christmas?’ They rattle off these things. It’s really sweet when Henry gets a list or a ‘thank you.’
“It’s really sweet when we get letters,” she added. “This is what it’s all about — to believe in Christmas and the magic of it.”
Carol said the amount of lights has gradually increased.
“We just started with a basic string around the house,” she said. “It’s just gone out of control over the years. We’re slowing down. We used to have the old siding on the house, so I could staple the lights up and down the whole house and roof. I would make rows and rows, so the whole house was aglow.”
They now have new siding and a new roof, so they install lights along the perimeter of the house.
“We keep thinking this is the last year,” Carol said. “We’re getting older now. We just can’t [stop]. It’s a tradition. They all know the Santa Claus house.”
The tradition did take a one year break in 2009, after Henry’s best friend died suddenly in November.
“We had so much going on with the funeral and being with the family,” Carol said. “We heard about it the following year.”
Sometimes the Waring’s grandson Cameron, 17, gives Henry a break and suits up. Another grandson Taber, 10, enjoys being an elf.
The grandsons and granddaughter Madysen, 15, assist Henry and Carol with the installation of the Christmas lights.
“They are grandma’s little helpers,” Carol said. “We’re getting up in our age, so it’s a time consuming project. We’ve been doing it for the grandkids since they were little. Now they feel like they are a part of it more.”
Henry said he just enjoys seeking children smile.
“I used to stand real still when they are next to me,” he said. “I turn and wave. That will startle them. A lot of kids have been coming back for years. It makes me feel good that they are enjoying the display.”
Henry, 59, is a former lead sanitation man for the City of Camas. Carol, 61, is a former Mt. Pleasant School superintendent. These days, she is a part time health assistant at Skyridge Middle School and a caretaker at Columbia Ridge Senior Living.