The following is an excerpt that was printed in the December 2015 LDS Living Magazine about a special Christmas that occurred to Juliana Perkins Luke when she lived in Panaca, NV. I am posting it here because of the family legacy of kindness and thoughtfulness that is shown. It is a great addition to my husband’s family history as it mentions his grandparents, Don and Sylvia, his dad Brent, and especially his uncle Scott.
When I was about 6 years old, my family moved to the small town of Panaca, Nevada. It was dry and desolate, but it had a kind of rugged beauty that I loved. My dad got a job teaching at the local gram- mar school, and though the community was small and close-knit, everyone wel- comed us, and we soon made many friends. It was an ex- citing and adventurous time, particularly because we were about to have another sis- ter, giving us five girls in all.
One family we grew to admire was the Wadsworths, who had 11 children. Mom and Dad loved them so much that they named our new baby sister Sylvia, after Sister Wadsworth.
The first two years were filled with friendship and joy. But then disaster struck: Sylvia Wadsworth died, leaving her husband with eight children still at home. Seventeen months after that, Don Wadsworth also passed away.
The entire town was heartbroken. Preparations were made to send the kids to various relatives, but the Wadsworth children had different plans. Taking charge, the oldest son, Brent, held a family council. The children unanimously agreed that their deceased parents would not want them to be separate and unable to see each other frequently during their formative years. Their parents had taught them to be responsible for one another and to serve those around them. They declined any outside help, expressing a desire to make it on their own. The members of the extended family agreed to step back and let them give it a try. Because of their parents’ solid nurturing, they knew the value of and the true joy that came from serving others and placing others’ needs before their own. I saw examples of this many times in my youth. One such time was the Christmas of 1972.
One of our favorite seasonal activities was the ward Christmas party. The highlight of the party was a visit from Santa Claus himself. Our bishop heightened the experience by periodically leaving the cultural hall to check on the progress of Old St. Nick. Our bishop was so convincing that all of us kids were close to exploding with excitement. A few moments later, Santa would burst into the hall with a boisterous, “Ho, ho, ho!” He’d sit in front of the stage and would take each child on his lap to listen to their Christmas wish, then give each a paper bag filled with peanuts, an orange, and a large candy cane. It was an event we eagerly looked forward to all year long.
But this Christmas was different. There was a lot of sickness be- cause a debilitating respiratory virus ran rampant through the town and neighboring communities. Try as we might to stay healthy, all five of us girls came down with the virus at the same time. No one likes being sick during the holidays, but it’s especially depressing around Christmastime. We tried to be brave and deal with the illness as best we could—it was Christmas, after all, a time when good cheer should have been ever-present—but our stoic resolve lasted only until Dad delivered the telling blow.
“I’m afraid we won’t be able to attend the ward Christmas party this year,” he announced with regret. “You’re simply too sick, and we can’t risk spreading the flu to everyone else.”
To say we were disappointed was an understatement. Santa expected all the kids in our town to be in the cultural hall of the church building. If he didn’t see us there, Christmas would be lost!
[Christmas Eve], just before we headed off to bed, a knock came at the front door.
“I’ll get it,” my sister said, trudging off. She opened the door, and there, big as life, stood Santa Claus! “Ho, ho, ho!” he roared with a twinkle in his eye. “I heard there were some sick kids in this house. We can’t have them missing Christmas Eve just because they’re feeling down.” He marched in, chuckling merrily, and sat in Dad’s recliner. We stood with mouths gaping in shock. Santa had a special stop at our house! There were plenty of other kids to keep him busy at the community party, but he’d heard we were sick and couldn’t attend the gathering. We’d thought surely he wouldn’t miss five scrawny girls. But he had! Years after we found out that our personal Santa was Scott Wadsworth. He was especially grateful for the love an encouragement his family had received from the community during their hardships, and he made sure to return the favor every chance he got. When he found out the Perkins girls were about to miss out on Christmas, he made a special effort to show his love by stopping by. Christmas was almost lost that year, but thanks to the love and concern from one individual in our small town, we had one of the most memorable Christmases ever.