By Moira Blazi
More than a few years ago, when a neighbor called Ladonna and Vernie Mack to be Santa and Mrs. Claus at a local party, they were not prepared. “We scrounged up an old suit, which didn’t fit, the legs were way too short, Vern had his crotch halfway down to his knees” Ladonna recalled. “I made the mistake of eating a bunch of radishes right before and burped right in a kids face. Then I heard that kid say, “Grandma, Santa stinks, Vernie recalled with a laugh.” But now, that kid is grown and he brings his little son to see me every year.” For the second year, Ladonna made them both some sweet outfits, which they still use. “They only get worn a few hours every year, I dry clean them and put them away till the next year” Ladonna added.
The couple has been personifying the famous couple for 28 years now, and many in Libby would agree that, LaDonna, with her beautiful silver curls, and Vernie, with his real Santa-Clausey beard, are absolutely perfect for the roles. “Once in awhile, a kid will reach up and tug at my beard to make sure its real” Mack told the Montanian.
Every year, the pair make limited appearances in Libby ; the fire dept, the Cub Scouts, the Elks Club and the tree lighting ceremony on Mineral Ave. Other Santa’s have to fill in at the many venues that they decline.
This year, at the VFW, Mike Mason, jumped into the Santa game for the first time. “My wife Julie ordered a one size-fits-all Santa suit, I thought, “Ok, it sounds like fun.” Mason told the Montanian. ”Kids like me cause I’m big and Jolly, but still, I’m nervous” Mason added. “ I haven’t had a chance to scare the kids”
“We don’t get a lot of crying kids, I just tell them to sit right down there on Santa’s Lap” Ladonna Mack explained. “ these days most kids ask for some kind of electronic device, but a lot of them still want Legos”
Vernie and LaDonna Mack make personal visits to 4 homes every year, to families who are special to them. When the Montanian asked the Mack’s what was the most unusual thing they remember a kid asking for, they both stopped and thought for a moment. “ Older kids often ask for peace in their families and in the world” LaDonna said, “Alot of kids just want their parents to stop fighting.” added Vernie.
Lets hope they all get their wishes this year.
Photo of Ladonna and Vernie Mack, who are Santa’s helper in Libby, Mont. Photo by Moira Blazi, The Montanian
Jule from the VFW poses with Santa during the Christmas tree lighting event at the VFW. Photo by Moira Blazi, The Montanian.