The Christmas of 1955 was shaping up to be a little on the lean side, recalled JoAnne De Wilde on Tuesday morning at the main fire hall in St. Thomas.
She had written down her recollection of what would, instead, become a memorable Christmas morning at the family home in Fingal and presented the note to St. Thomas Fire Chief Rob Broadbent. As the chief read the note aloud, he relayed the fact JoAnne’s parents, Ben and Eva Crabe struggled to give their six children the kind of Christmas they deserved.
Someone in the family had suggested JoAnne write a letter to Santa Claus. A task she duly undertook.
Christmas Eve, her father implored the children to bed, however JoAnne and sister Sheila remained awake in the hope of catching Santa on his rounds.
The two sisters heard the strains of Here Comes Santa Claus and they promptly opened the window to spy on their father singing while carrying a huge box up from the garage to the house.
Christmas morning, the children lined up in their pyjamas and took their places from the youngest to the oldest.
JoAnne described the scene “as a miracle.” Under the tree and spread out around was something she hadn’t thought possible . . . toys and gifts for everyone.
“I can’t say who enjoyed that Christmas more, dad and mom or us children. Mom often said she would like to thank the firemen who blessed us.”
You see, the gifts were a present from members of the St. Thomas Fire Department.
And that’s what promoted JoAnne and some of her siblings to show their gratitude all these years later.
“Mom passed before doing so and so did my husband,” JoAnne explained. (Brother) Carl and I often discussed what we would like to do to thank these wonderful men.
“So now it is up to me and my family to make this gift of thank-you. Mom’s children are doing what she, in her heart, wanted to do. We counted our pennies and put them together.”
To the tune of $765, presented to a very touched Broadbent in a ceremony at the fire hall.
“The money will go toward our smoke and CO alarm program where we donate them to people who otherwise are unable to afford them,” explained Broadbent.
And along with the cheque was a mounted plaque featuring a photograph of the children happily gathered around the tree that Christmas morning. The recipients of a gift of kindness.
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