There is a better-than-average chance you have a photograph of Bob Scott taped on your refrigerator, tacked on a bulletin board or framed in your office.
And you don't even know Bob Scott.
Not really, anyway. Not like you know a friend or neighbor or co-worker.
But you know Bob Scott. Thousands of Fargo-Moorhead residents do. Your kids and grandkids do, too.
You just don't know him as Bob Scott.
You know him as Santa Claus.
For about a month every year for 13 years, Bob Scott portrayed Santa at the Fargo Park District's "Santa Village" at Rheault Farm on 25th Street South in Fargo. He'd wear denim overalls over a long-sleeved shirt, often red and black flannel shirt. Sometimes there was a red Santa's cap atop his head or little wire-rimmed glasses perched at the end of his nose, and with his perfect white beard, twinkling eyes and pink cheeks, he'd become Kris Kringle.
My wife and I knew Bob, even though we didn't know Bob, because our daughter went to sit on Santa's lap each December as she was growing up, firmly telling him exactly what she wanted for Christmas. It was Polly Pocket dolls one year, a Barbie Dreamhouse the next. And, as Emma got older, it was a Wii video game or an iPod.
And Santa, in a gentle voice befitting the occasion, would assure our little girl he'd see what he could do.
He made her happy and hopeful, which made Michelle and me happy and hopeful. Memories were made. We have the photographs to prove it.
Which makes today's column a somber one.
Robert "Bob" Myron Scott, who brought all that joy as Santa Claus, died Aug. 7 at the age of 68. There was a visitation Monday evening, and there'll be another one hour prior to a 2 p.m. memorial service Tuesday at First United Methodist in Fargo.
Scott's obituary ran online and in Saturday's Forum, giving a wonderful recap of his time as Santa:
"What he took the most pride in was getting to know the kids who came to see Santa. Parents would comment how their child had been to see another Santa but didn't want to sit on his lap. Bob would start talking to the child, and before long he would have him or on his lap, laughing, smiling, and telling Santa what their wish from him was. He would remember names and what children had asked for previous years. He made many skeptics into Santa believers."
Could there be a better legacy?
There was more to Scott than his time as Santa. He was devoted to his family, including two sons Tyler and Sam. A grain bin accident took Sam in 2011. Scott was deeply involved for many years in Boy Scout Troop 214 in north Fargo, where he was well-known at the Golden Brown Pancake Feed and Pitchfork Fondue steak feed. Judging by messages I received, many also knew him as a dedicated salesman for Fargo-Moorhead Jobbing, where he worked for about 35 years.
But you probably didn't know him in those roles, as important as they were to him.
You probably knew him as my family did, as the Santa who sat in the farmhouse living room at Rheault Farm from the Friday after Thanksgiving until Dec. 23, visiting with child after child after child while Mrs. Claus (Bev Lee of Fargo) baked cookies in the kitchen and elves scurried about.
Scott was Santa from 2004 to 2016. He also portrayed Santa in other locations.
How many children sat on his lap and told Scott what they wanted under the Christmas tree?
The park district didn't count, but enterprise director Carolyn Boutain put his Santa Village service into perspective with some numbers.
Scott portrayed Santa for roughly 20 days each year for 13 years. In those 360 days, he visited with children from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The lines weren't always snaking out the front door onto the farmhouse porch, but it was busy more often than not. And on weekends, oh my.
"It can be exhausting," Boutain said. "On Saturdays and Sundays, he was greeting children in the living room all afternoon. It's a great job and he was super at it and loved it, but it's also a very tough job."
Portraying Santa isn't for the faint of heart. Only two men — Scott and the park district's original Santa Claus Jim Berg — both did it for more than a decade. Many others were short-timers.
"Many can look the part, but only a few can live up to it," Boutain said. "Both of those gentlemen were excellent with children. They were patient and caring. Both enjoyed being Santa and knew that it didn't stop when they got up out of the chair. They understood that if they had the beard and looked like they did, kids were going to say, 'Hey, Santa' and want to talk with them. It takes a very genuine person to never be off the clock, so to speak, and Bob was one of those people."
In a Dec. 25, 2008, story in The Forum in which Scott called being Santa Claus "one of the greatest jobs on Earth," he also alluded to a depressing part of the gig — having a child whisper a wish in his ear that was heart-breaking or one he knew wouldn't come true. Like hope for a dying mother or filling an empty pantry with food.
Roger Gress, the former park district director who also knew Scott through Boy Scouts, said he believed that weighed on Scott.
"Could you imagine some of the wishes he heard? It had to be heart-breaking, especially if you're talking about a child in a tough situation. How do you respond if a kid asks you for food because his family doesn't have enough to eat?" Gress said. "I believe that's why many can't portray Santa for a long time. They understandably can't handle it. But Bob did it for more than 10 years. That's amazing."
RIP, Bob Scott. We thank you for the memories you made for our families. Thousands and thousands of memories.