North

Fort Smith, N.W.T., mourns the loss of 'Santa MacClaus'

The town of Fort Smith, N.W.T., is mourning the loss of Duncan MacPherson, a.k.a Santa MacClaus, who died last week in Arizona doing what he loved most - working on his sleigh.

Duncan (Doug) MacPherson died last week after an accident while working on sleigh

Duncan MacPherson, aka Santa MacClaus, on his sleigh in Arizona. MacPherson's persona as Santa Claus is remembered in Fort Smith as an 'institution.' (Facebook)

The town of Fort Smith, N.W.T., is mourning the loss of Duncan MacPherson, a.k.a Santa MacClaus, who died last week in Arizona doing what he loved most — working on his sleigh.

MacPherson was a fixture in Fort Smith at Christmas time playing Santa, complete with a decked-out sleigh, for years.

"Throughout probably most of December he would drive around," says his friend Don Jaque. "And all the kids would run to the window and wave at Santa as he came by, and it was quite heartwarming."

The 67-year-old was a carpenter for 30 years, which was evident in the construction of his sleigh.

"Each year it would get bigger and bigger and have new features added to it," Jaque says.

It was while working on his passion, the 'MacClaus sleigh,' in Arizona that Duncan MacPherson fell and struck his head. He died Nov. 18. (Facebook)

He says MacPherson was a big guy with a big presence, which helped earn him the nickname Santa MacClaus.

"Always a mile-wide smile, and big-hearted, he was a friendly guy. He really connected to people."

His wife, Carol, often joined him on the sleigh, as did many townspeople who would hop along for the ride.

"It became a tradition over a couple of decades in Fort Smith and became a community institution," Jaque says.

Spreading the spirit south

When MacPherson and his wife started spending their winters in Arizona, that didn't stop him from spreading the Santa MacClaus cheer.

He built a new sleigh on a golf cart and spent hours driving around their RV park every night before Christmas.

"He made it into a tradition down there," Jaque said.

"Even though there was no snow, this delightful Santa float or sleigh would go around in Arizona and bring Christmas cheer to everyone."

It was while working on his passion, the "MacClaus sleigh," in Arizona that MacPherson fell and struck his head. He never recovered and died Nov. 18.

Tradition continues

"The whole community, all of Fort Smith, is feeling sorrow about it," Jaque said. "He was quite a persona, he was quite a vibrant figure in the community for so long."

Jaque says the town will continue to use MacPherson's sleigh.

"The special, the unique iconic thing about Duncan was that Santa Claus float, that's going to keep going around our community in the Christmas season," he says.

"That's his legacy."

Duncan MacPherson and his wife of 44 years, Carol. He leaves behind four children and 12 grandchildren. (Facebook)

with files from Northwind

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.