City’s 'Santa Claus’ Busier Than Ever
Maybe you think YOU’RE busy during this pre-Christmas period of last-minute preparations! It’s better than an even bet that Albert E. Warnhoff is a lot busier.
Warnhoff is Ann Arbor’s unofficial Santa Claus and has been for the past eight years.
This is the most exciting—and also the most exacting—week of the year for the 64-year-old Warnhoff. He's on vacation from his regular job at the Fingerle Lumber Co. He almost has to be on vacation to do everything on his schedule.
Goes To Lansing
For example, Monday he went to a school for blind children at Lansing under auspices of the Ann Arbor Lions Club and distributed some of the 1,525 toys he's made during the year.
Tuesday he visited a home for crippled children in Farmington and a Pontiac boys club. Yesterday Warnhoff, garbed as Santa, handed out presents in the children's wards at St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital and at the Rackham School in Ypsilanti. Today it’s the Ypsilanti State Hospital.
Next week—just before the 25th—the itinerary includes the children’s wards at University Hospital and the Michigan Children’s Institute in Ann Arbor, Beyer Memorial Hospital in Ypsilanti and private homes throughout the area.
But Warnhoff, whose real pleasure comes from the light in the youngsters’ eyes when Santa hands them a gift, has run into troubles this year that would dismay a lesser man than St. Nick.
Wife Is Ill
His wife, Ethel, who helps with the dolls and the selection of doll equipment, has been ill and unable to assist as much as usual.
Hers is an untold story which, in its silent way, is as selfless and : remarkable as her husband’s. Mrs. Warnhoff is weak from her illness and tired from the years of pushing social contacts into the background so that the Santa she married would have time to complete his Christian mission.
Friends of Mrs. Warnhoff have said that a letter or greeting card, even from a stranger, could at this stage do a great deal to bolster her faith and happiness.
The Warnhoffs, who do so much for others on Christmas, exchange small personal gifts on the holiday. This year they won’t even be at home together on the big day. Mrs. Warnhoff is staying with her granddaughter at 1808 Dexter Ave. Warnhoff will go there for Christmas.
Injured Thumb Cut Output
A lesser misfortune than his wife’s illness also plagued the city's Santa this year. His toy production dropped sharply late this summer after he injured a thumb with an electric saw. He says the accident cost about 200 toys in the year’s output.
All in all, Warnhoff plans to slow down the pace from now on—the pace that keeps him busy working on toys Saturdays, Sundays and evenings at home. He plans to concentrate on Washtenaw county children in the future and reluctantly, to put an end to the out-state visits to disabled and needy youngsters.
There are plenty of women’s groups throughout the county helping the self-appointed Santa Claus. Some of them dressed dolls and made doll bedclothes this year.
Warnhoffs 1952 production brought his eight-year total to 22,000 toys — a tremendous record of selfless interest in those who, without him, would never know first-hand the magic of Santa Claus.
Ann Arbor's Santa Claus, Albert E. Warnhoff (top) of 1315 Franklin Blvd., readies some of the 1,525 toys he's made for needy children. Warnhoff made the doll cribs and various women’s organizations in the county dressed the dolls and made the coverlets. Below, Warnhoff, in familiar disguise, shakes hands with Gov. G. Mennen Williams in Lansing during a toy distribution trip to a school for blind children in Lansing earlier this week