- John English
DFW Santa Ronnie Williams making wishes come true for two decades
For Ronnie Williams, Christmas miracles actually do come true.
The Fort Worth man has played Santa Claus for nearly two decades. A few years ago, he received a special request.
“I had this one little girl sitting on my knee, and I said, ‘What do you want for Christmas, sweetie?’” Williams said. “She said, ‘I want my daddy to come home.’”
The girl’s father was serving in Afghanistan at the time, and Williams said he had to think very carefully before he responded.
“I said, ‘Sweetheart, I’ll pray for you real, real hard that your daddy comes home soon,’” Williams said.
A married father of two with two grandchildren of his own, the girl’s request really resonated with him.
Two weeks later, the same girl returned, ran up to Williams and threw her arms around his neck.
“She said, ‘Santa, thank you for bringing my daddy home,’” Williams said, fighting back tears. “I couldn’t do anything but cry. It really tugged at my heart strings.”
This is one of many stories that Williams, 69, said keeps him coming back year after year.
Williams grew up in Breckenridge and moved to Fort Worth in 1970.
He got married to his wife Rose, started working for Menasco manufacturing and eventually became a machinist.
As the 20th century came to a close, however, Williams came to a crossroads that would ultimately change his life.
“I got laid off from my job building landing gear for aircrafts,” Williams said. “They decided to move to Cleveland back in 2000. They asked me if I wanted to go and I said, ‘Heck no, I don’t want to go up there and freeze my tail off.’”
Thats when the search for a new career path began.
“I started going through the papers trying to find another job, and my wife ran across this ad that said ‘naturally bearded Santa’s wanted,’” Williams said. “And I said, ‘Why not?’”
Williams said when he went for his first interview, it was with a man dressed in what might as well have been a tailor-made Santa outfit, and sporting a perfectly coiffed, white beard.
“I said, ‘Man, I hope I’m not going up against you,’” Williams said. “He laughed and said ‘No, I’m retiring,’ and the next thing you know I’ve got the job.”
Williams said he worked about four weeks at Ridgmar Mall on his first gig and got paid $1,000 for his services.
The Fort Worth resident now averages about 25 jobs a year that pay at varying amounts.
One of the reasons Williams makes such a great Santa is that he has a unique condition in which his eyebrows have always been white.
Another reason is that Williams was born without pigment in his face and had a white streak in his hair at birth.
“Whenever I was old enough to grow a beard, my beard was completely white in the front,” Williams said. “I just had to dye my sides and I was good to go.”
Williams is semi-retired, but does own a trailer park where he works part time, and said that the Christmas gigs provide a nice supplemental income.
“Santa is our vacation money,” Williams laughed.
Williams doesn’t generally hand out presents, but does give parents the option of giving him a gift to give to their child if they choose to do so. He said his jobs generally come in the form of entertaining as Santa Claus in people’s homes and at corporate parties, which he has been doing since 2004.
Williams plans to play Santa this year and next before hanging up the sleigh reins for good, and said there is one thing he will miss most of all.
“I enjoy watching the children with a sparkle in their eyes,” Williams said. “If they believe, that’s when I really love it, and know that I’ve done my job well.”
Photos courtesy of Elusive Images Photography