Money & Career
First Person with Santa (aka Bob Nordan)
12/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
Santa

From January to November each year, a local retiree is known as Bob Nordan. But come the holiday season, he’s better known as Santa Claus! 


Nordan’s family moved to Southwest Louisiana in 1956 when he was in the 4th grade. He graduated from Sulphur High and spent a couple years studying accounting at McNeese State University. He met his future wife, Deenie, joined the Airforce, did a tour in Vietnam, and then returned to McNeese. His dream at that time was to be an FBI agent. Accounting was one way to get in. But then Nordan discovered computers. With only two semesters left until he completed a degree, he left McNeese and was hired by the Calcasieu Marine Bank to start their computer center. He worked there for 18 years until 1990. Next, Nordan did computer work for Abundant Life Fellowship (now Christian World) where he served for 16 years. Deenie worked as a registered nurse at Memorial Hospital for 38 years. The couple has two sons and six grandchildren. Two decades ago, Nordan quietly began a second career as a professional Santa. Deenie often goes along as Mrs. Claus. While Nordan does have some business cards, he has never advertised. His popularity has soared over the years through word of mouth. That, and the fact that from mid-November until Christmas Day, this 72-year-old never leaves his house without donning his Santa hat and a bright red shirt. Thrive magazine recently sat down with Nordan, where he shared childhood memories, life experiences, and the joy of being Santa Claus.


What was Christmas like for you growing up? 

As a child, Christmas was the best day of the year. My daddy was a big fan of Christmas, and it was a special day. I have two sisters, and we had a close family. We were allowed to open just one present on Christmas Eve. All the others were for Christmas morning. Growing up, I loved Santa. I never dreamed I would one day BE Santa. 


How did you become known as the go-to Santa in SWLA? 

I just slipped into it. When I was 40 years old, I started letting my beard grow. I hated to shave. Over time, it turned completely white and people started saying I looked like Santa. At the time, I weighed near 250 pounds, so that helped. At first, I’d just wear a Santa hat. Eventually, I bought a suit and started doing some volunteer work, for example, at local schools. Over the past 20 years, my Santa career has grown. I enjoy it because of the kids, to see the looks on their faces.


How many gigs do you do over a typical holiday season?

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I play Santa at around 30 events. I’ve done up to four in one day. 


Who are your clients? 

Schools, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, private and corporate parties, Chick-fil-A. But Billy Navarre is my biggest client – he discovered me three years ago. Now I work at his carwash, passing candy canes out to the kids.


Over the past several years, you’ve transformed your Santa physique into a slimmer version. Describe that journey. 

In 2011, my daughter-in-law, who is an exercising, marathon-running, health nut, wanted to run a half-marathon with my sons, and they asked me to join them. So I did. At 245 pounds. Of course, with my Santa cap and red shirt on.  I trained and ran it in a little over three hours. After that, my daughter-in-law got me on a diet regimen, and I lost 70 pounds over several months. Later, I participated in an endurance fundraiser event for wounded warriors called Tough Mudder. Mostly through diet, our lifestyle has completely changed.


What’s the best thing about playing Santa? 

I love making the kids happy, seeing the wonderment on their faces. But it’s not just the kids. I’ll be driving down the road with my Santa hat on and people honk their horns at me, wave and smile. I look forward to this season all year long.


Where is the most unusual place you have played Santa? 

Two years ago, in December, we took a trip to China. And of course, I wore my Santa hat. The people there loved it, wanted to take photos with me, asked me to hold their kids. Santa seems to be universal.


How long do you plan to continue this vocation? 

As long as I’m physically able.


Name three things most people don’t know about Santa.

I was born in Jackson, Mississippi. My favorite beverage is diet peach tea. And my favorite animal is the basset hound. (And you thought it was my reindeer!)



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