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ORANGE — Heritage House’s long-time Santa Claus now has his own day.
The late Larry David on Saturday afternoon was honored by the Heritage House Museum of Orange County and the city of Orange for more than 40 years in service as the jolly old bearded man.
“It was magical. Oh my gosh, it was 100% magic,” said Oscar Mellon, a Lion’s Club member who recalled what it was like to come see Santa as a child. “You come in and Santa knows your name. I seem to remember he knew what I wanted for Christmas already.”
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic took over, David had a heart attack and died in his home. It wasn’t until Saturday that the city was able to gather and honor him properly.
Mayor Larry Spears Jr., who went to high school with two of David’s children, presented David’s widow with a proclamation in front of an assembly of family and friends.
“This Christmas season, we as a city and staff wanted to honor him with his very own special day in the city of Orange,” Spears said. “He was truly an amazing man. He gave so much to others.”
The proclamation recognized David for his gentleness and patience with children, being a “jolly old elf” in the annual Christmas parade, sharing his famous gumbo and burgers and his service to Lions Club, the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce, the Stark Foundation, the Malloy Foundation, the local chapter of the American Red Cross, the Evergreen Cemetery Association, and the Knights of Columbus.
David’s history also included an Army deployment to Vietnam, serving as a finance clerk, as well as becoming a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church in 2006.
“His first and only assignment was working with the bishop, and he just loved that,” said widow Cheryl David.
Cheryl met Larry leaving a Christmas party in 1989.
“I’m going, ‘Merry Christmas!’ and I shake his hand and I looked into his eyes and I thought, ‘That’s somebody I can trust,’” she said.
She recalled his eyes as a “beautiful” green. They were married for 26 years before he died.
His son Brent also recalled his father’s sincere eyes. His dad was Santa for him, too, for his first several years.
“We would get dressed up, and my mom would bring me,” Brent recalled. “One year, I recognized his eyes.”
That was when he realized his father was Santa Claus.
After the presentation of the proclamation, there were burgers, donated by Al Granger of Granger Chevrolet, which were cooked in “Uncle Larry” style. There was a table with cookies, brownies, punch and cider for attendees as well.
Heritage House President Adam Conrad, who also is a teacher at Vidor High School, brought several theater students dressed as elves and The Grinch. They stood with the city’s new Santa for pictures with children and for general spreading of holiday cheer.
Though there is a new Santa in town, for $15 you can still have the old Santa in the form of an ornament with a picture of David on it. The photo was taken in 2019 — the last year he was Santa Claus for the city. The Heritage House secretary put the ornament together.
“Kimberly (Manning) designed this,” said Heritage House board member Leslie Williams. “We thought it would be nice to memorialize him.”
rachel.kersey@beaumontenterprise.com
twitter.com/ontheREKord
Rachel Kersey was the local government reporter for The Beaumont Enterprise.

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