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After Christmas, Middle River Couple Gets Well-Deserved Rest

Boyd and Kathi Crouse have just finished their 13th season of portraying Santa Claus and his wife.

Boyd and Kathi Crouse have been booked to the hilt, with little time to call their own, since before Thanksgiving.

Now in their 13th year of portraying the world's ultimate gift-givers, the couple has a packed schedule starting the weekend after Thanksgiving and ending on Christmas Eve.

When the dust had settled on the 2012 Christmas season, they had visited with more than 1,000 children and attended about 30 events.

Earlier this month, they had two gigs on the same day but put their heads together to ensure they could attend one more.

"We did a charity event in York, PA, in the morning and we had a house visit to do in Hampden that evening, but we just had to be there" for this additional appearance, Boyd Crouse said.

When American soldiers returning home from Afghanistan arrived on U.S. soil at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport on Dec. 8, the Crouses (also known as Mr. and Mrs. Claus) were there to greet them.

"These men and women were dusty, their baggage was dusty," Kathi Crouse said. "This whole line of soldiers [was] going through, shaking hands with people, and when they got to me, they said, 'Mrs. Claus!' and then when they saw Boyd, they shouted, 'Santa!'"

One woman soldier told Santa Crouse that she had been "very, very good," and threw her arms around him and hugged him, Kathi Crouse said.

"It was a very emotional experience," she said. "I'm so glad we were able to be there for them."

For Boyd Crouse, it's a gig that started accidentally, but he's embraced his new identity with gusto.

Kathi Crouse was no stranger to playing holiday characters. As an active volunteer with the Bengies-Chase Recreation Council in Middle River, she played the Easter Bunny for that group's annual Easter egg hunt.

As the school nurse at Sacred Heart of Mary School in Dundalk for 11 years before it closed, Kathi Crouse was recruited in 2000 to dress as Santa for the school bazaar.

"I told Boyd that the school needed someone to play Santa, and before I could tell him that I had agreed to do it, he said, 'OK, I'll do it,'" she said. "I never had the heart to tell him they asked me to do it."

It was a match made in heaven for the man who previously had no great affection for Christmas, which was a bone of contention with Kathi, who admits to being an over-the-top fan of the holiday.

"Kathi was real intense about Christmas," Boyd said.

"He was 'bah humbug' about Christmas," Kathi said.

"No, she was intense," Boyd insisted.

Somewhere along the line in their 25-year marriage, Kathi backed off a little, Boyd stepped up a little and the couple met in the middle.

"Now it means a lot to both of us," Kathi Crouse said.

In 2000, when Boyd Crouse put the red suit on for the first time, it was obvious it was meant to be, both said.

"I put the suit on one time, and that was it," he said.

Kathi Crouse nodded and said, "He had the magic."

That first year, the couple appeared at the school bazaar and two other events. Over the years since, through word of mouth, they have been asked to attend charitable events and visit schools, businesses and private homes.

"All we ask is that each group have something there for Santa to give to the children," Kathi Crouse said. "We don't accept any money for this, and we can't afford to buy gifts to take to every event. But Santa has to have something to give to the kids."

Portraying Santa and his wife is a hobby for the couple and one they have no desire to turn into a job.

If someone insists on paying them for an appearance, they ask that the money instead be given to a charity or a local family in need.

"If people pay us, it becomes a job; I have a job, Kathi has a job," Boyd said. "I don't want this to be a job, this is something we enjoy doing together as a couple and we like what it means to others."

When Boyd first started playing Santa, he wore a fake beard and used a pillow to pad his stomach.

He now sports a real beard that he allows to grow out a bit as the Christmas season approaches. He waxes his mustache into a handlebar and puts some curls in his beard when he makes a visit as Santa.

"And I've probably put on 50 pounds in these 13 years, so this is all natural," he said, patting his stomach. "I no longer have to use the pillow."

If there's something about their appearances that they are most proud of, it's that they do not put children through an assembly line.

"We do whatever a family asks for," Boyd said. "The kids sit on my lap and we talk. They get as much time as they need to tell me everything they want to tell me, and I take my time with each child—each is important to me."

With their Santa visits done for the season, the Crouses now get to spend some time at their own personal North Pole—their home in Bowleys Quarters, where they might have one of the most extensive collections of Christmas decorations.

Every nook and cranny (including bathrooms) is filled with decorative towels, wreaths, figurines, ornaments, glassware, mugs, china, stuffed animals and artwork.

A small artificial tree is decorated with nothing but summer- and beach-themed ornaments. A nearby fireplace is lined with stockings for immediate family members as well as close friends of their sons.

Even the family dog, a rescued racing greyhound, participates in the family hobby. His name? Donner. And he has his own Santa Dog outfit.

A season that has always meant the world to Kathi Crouse because of its benevolent and giving spirit is now made all the more special by the husband and wife's appearances as the couple perhaps known as the world's most generous benefactors.

While many thank the Crouses for their efforts, they insist they are the ones to be showered with the gift of being able to make others happy, and to make children of all ages smile and perhaps forget about the tough times in their lives, if even for just a moment.

"I know many people will say thank you to us but I don't think they realize the joy that they have given us," Kathi Crouse wrote on her Facebook page Wednesday morning. "To see the excitement in a child's eyes (even adults') is an awesome experience."

Buzz Beeler December 27, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Well deserved rest! Did you see he decorations they put up. They are beautiful but someone has to take them down and put them neatly away. I love to decorate but I hate to un-decorate.
M.E December 27, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Amazing couple!
Pam Spittel December 28, 2012 at 12:27 AM
I love you both! Kathi & I went to high school together. Although we weren't friends then, we connected in recent years from our high school reunions and get-together s. I am so proud to call her my friend!!
Carolyn December 28, 2012 at 11:17 AM
They are a great part of the holiday season! Thankful for the patience they have had over the past 3 years with my son who has been quite afraid to sit on Santa's lap. My favorite picture was from 2 yrs ago when he was screaming and crying and Santa and Mrs. Claus looked SO concerned!
Teresa Colburn Bird December 28, 2012 at 03:57 PM
So proud we're family!!

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