Every year Santa came until 2015

Since 1971, Santa Claus has come to my house.   That was the first year that a 12 inch-tall standup Christmas card of Santa, holding a pipe with a heart applique in the billowing smoke, arrived in the mail. It was sent by some close friends that I had worked with as an Air Force lieutenant in Washington, D.C.

Now I was a Captain in flying training in California, with likelihood of being in combat soon and the stresses that the Vietnam War had placed in my path.   Then Santa arrived with this cheerful greeting:

“If Santa loaded up his sleigh and found room inside,
For someone who’s been nice all year to take a Christmas Ride.
He wouldn’t have to check his list or think it over twice –
He’s just say, ‘I’ll take Johnny ! Because you’re so EXTRA nice!’”

Kathy and Joe

with the engaging postscript: “Show All of Your Friends!”

A Christmas card for a 5-year-old, but still, Santa made me feel good.

I decided then that Santa would return to his sender the following year to wit: “ A special card should be passed along each holiday – a living tradition for Xmas – 1972 – J&B.” I was married by then) and in flight training in the F4 Phantom fighter in Arizona.

Santa came to me in 1973 in Udorn Thailand, where I had spent part of the year flying combat missions.

He simply said: “As they say in the military, we concur -1973 J&K.”

Over the years Santa traveled from Alaska, where he announced to our friends:

“Surprise we are expecting – and you thought Santa might not be coming – 1976 J, B, and baby.”

As the service moved us to Colorado, Alabama, California, Virginia, and finally after retirement back to New York, Santa came on his merry way to witness the changes in our lives.   As the years passed, he also began to develop on a more topical bent to his greetings:

“1975 was the year of Recession, this old friend wouldn’t think of receding, that would be a trangression.” JK

“An old friend to help the Norvells ring in a new decade, (No Johnny, just because he has a beard, it doesn’t mean he’s an Ayatollah). -1980.”    

“To Cheer you after Princess Di, and Old Friend Comes to offer ‘Hi’!” -1997.”

“I’m glad to back with the Norvell clan, I know their Y2K bash will be grand- 1999.” JKLN

“ The presidential election never ends, but here’s your Merry Christmas Friend -2000.” J&B



After commenting on more than 40 years of births, deaths, moves, retirements, and even Y2K, Santa is creased, and wrinkled, with some yellowing tape to hold him together. He barely has a spot left that isn’t covered with greetings, but hasn’t stopped. I surmise, that he will find a way to continue for many years to always have the right words to say.

And once again – in 2014 he was sent on his merry way for another year, but he didn’t return in 2015 as my old friend had passed on.  I learned this in 2016 when I googled his name and found an obituary.   That might have ended the tradition, but google led me to locate his former wife and sons, one of which had the card.   So last December Santa came back for his last trip.

In the future he will make the trip only on Facebook, and he is ok with that.  He has traveled enough.

About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in Air Force, Alaska, American History, American holidays, Anchorage Alaska, Christmas, Christmas Card traditions, Christmas Cards sent back and forth, Family History, Norvell Family History, Social History. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Every year Santa came until 2015

  1. jenorv says:

    Reblogged this on An American Family and commented:

    Each year I share this story of my good Air Force friend who sent me a Christmas card as a joke and we sent it back and forth until he died in 2015, for 44 years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.