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Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

By Jesse Utz 

Memories of Santa, and one to remember

Jess Shut Up


One of my favorite memories of my childhood is Christmastime. I loved it when family would come over and we would gather together. The adults would sit around the living room and share stories and laughter from their childhood. The joy was contagious. Playing with cousins whom you did not see very often was a treat in itself. But eventually we all ended up sitting around the tree, trying to guess what each package was.

The highlight, though, was when old Saint Nick himself showed up and had a gift for each of us. (Spoiler Alert) It was not until years later, when looking at photos, that I discovered that the Santa who showed up every Christmas Eve was actually my Grandpa Utz, dressed in an old Santa costume and beard. How did I not recognize him then? It must have been the power of Christmas that blinded me. But I still remember the excitement and joy that all of us kids felt as we sat on his lap and he reached into the bag and pulled out a present for each of us.

Later, that same suit was used by another Santa imposter on a special Christmas. It was the Christmas that Karrie’s Aunt Mickey passed away. We wanted her to enjoy Christmas with Mason and Marisha, so we had Santa come early; we all had a unique experience with Santa that year. All I will say is that the red suit did not quite fit and there was a rip involved. We all laughed so hard that year. The kids did not notice; the power of Christmas once again blinded the reality of the situation for the pure of heart.

You can never write a column about local people in Coulee doing their duty as Santa without mentioning my friend, Rodney Bise. He also spread that power of Christmas to many kids in the area. Rodney was not only a great Santa, but a mentor to many younger firefighters over the years. His enthusiasm for helping others and molding young people was contagious, and it motivated many to give back to their community. I will miss Rodney, as will many of you. If there was a project, Rodney was involved. If there was a need, Rodney was trying to encourage others to help. He also gave many, many hours to the local sports programs, always trying to serve the kids in any way he could. If there was a heartbeat of volunteerism in Coulee Country, Bise was the pulse. He always went all in, in anything he decided to be a part of, whether hunting, Christmas, the fire department or sports, he gave everything he had in him to make it succeed.

A few months ago I wrote of a local man who wanted to do a “Hero Wall” in the Coulee, honoring active military members of our community. That man was Rodney Bise. We did not get that accomplished before he left us. But this I promise: I will now personally see that this dream of Rodney’s gets done. It is the least I can do for a man who gave everything of himself to the people of this community. Thank you, Rodney, for being a man of integrity, faith and honor we can all look up to for generations.

So, the man in the red suit can change lives. Yes, yes he can. Every time I see Santa from now on, I will think of the power of Christmas, my Grandfather and Mr. Bise. Thanks for the memories and Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. … HO HO HO!

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