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Santa collection packed away with care and love

| Sunday, Jan. 30, 2005

Virginia Doyle packed away the last Santa Claus with great care. "I pack them all together until the next year. Hopefully," she added, "I'll be here to unpack them again next Christmas."

Doyle, an 85-year-old resident of Charleroi, has been collecting Santa Clauses since her marriage on Jan. 21, 1939. "I can't be certain when I started collecting but I probably bought my first Santa Claus that year."

Over the next six decades, one by one, Doyle kept building the collection. "I'm not certain of the exact number I have, but it is several dozen," she said. Every Christmas she would go to Murphy's 5&10 on Fallowfield Avenue or Woolworths on Fifth Street in Charleroi and come home with another Santa to add to the collection. A few of the Santa Clauses came from other places.

Her Santas appear in many sizes from several inches to larger ones, and postures from standing to sitting. Most of Doyle's collection is ceramic. "I also have a couple of porcelain ones." And some early ones are plaster of Paris. All these are painted in red, befitting Santa.

Doyle said one Santa dressed in cloth is standing. "I put him in a sled."

Another Santa has a matching Mrs. Santa. "He's sitting on the couch and she's working in front of a stove."

Doyle mused, "So lifelike, don't you think?"

She admits all the Santa Clauses look serene with smiley faces. "There's not a frown among them," Doyle said.

Besides the Christmas collection, Doyle is an artist. "I used to paint in oils but now I paint in acrylic. I need something that dries fast. Time is getting shorter so I need to get done quick."

Doyle also attends daily Mass at Mary, Mother of the Church in Charleroi. "Some people call that fanatic, I call it devoted."

Though her husband is deceased, "he's been gone for about 20 years," Doyle's daughter Judy lives with her. Another daughter, Barbara Huey, resides in Daisytown.

Doyle admits she loves decorating at Christmas. "I do all the decorating. I'm poinsettia happy. Judy doesn't have time to decorate because she works." As for the Santa Claus collection, each year she wonders if it is worth the effort to unpack and repack them all over again. But Doyle knows the answer as she repacks and carries the storage containers to the same spot with the other Christmas decorations. "I enjoy having them all out."

Asked which Santa was her favorite, Doyle replied, "I have no favorite, I like them all."

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