An Enchanting Mr. and Mrs. Claus
Who could possibly be more delightful, engaging, and dear to the hearts of people everywhere who love Christmas than Santa Claus and his dear wife and helpmate Mrs. Claus? Panola County’s own Mr. and Mrs. Claus, also known as Donny and Daphne Alford, are perfectly typecast for their roles—equally delightful, engaging, and dear to people’s hearts!
A few years ago, when Main Street Manager Cindy Deloney found out that the usual Santa was unavailable to ride the firetruck in the Christmas Parade, she asked Daphne, who works for the City of Carthage, if Donny might be able to serve as a substitute. “I’m sure it’s because she thought Donny fit the bill,” says Daphne. “You know, because he’s so…jolly!” After a good laugh, Donny adds, “Well, in my defense, I did have to get suspenders for those pants! They are huge!!”
He continues, “And while I might be able to LOOK like Santa, I am NOT an in-front-of-a-crowd kind of person. I’m a lot more of a ‘way back there’ guy! It is very out of character for me to be the center of attention in a group. However, I have to admit it does get a little easier when I put on that Santa suit!”
In contrast, Daphne claims she doesn’t have a bashful bone in her body. “I love to talk and be around people, and I kind of like the limelight,” she says. “When Donny was invited to be Santa, I said, ‘Well, not without ME!’ I knew I would LOVE being Mrs. Claus and that THIS Santa would not be on that firetruck without her!”
A couple of years later, the couple became the permanent Mr. and Mrs. Claus in the parade, and three years ago were invited to serve as Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the Chamber’s annual Breakfast with Santa. Donny was a little apprehensive about the breakfast. “Being up on a firetruck waving and smiling and shouting ‘Merry Christmas’ is a LOT different from having a child sitting on your lap,” he says, “but it has turned out to be very fun, and I really have as big a time as the kids do. Daphne and I have both loved it!”
Daphne agrees, “It is SO fun at the breakfast. Someone ‘announces’ us, and we come out into the Hall of Fame and go around to the tables visiting with the kids and letting their parents take pictures with us. The children are very excited to see Santa! Their little faces just light up. Then we make our way to the stage, and they start calling the tables one at a time. The kids pose with Santa for a photo to take home, and he talks to them a bit about what they want for Christmas. Then either one of the elves (portrayed by darling volunteers from the Bulldog Belles) or I give them a candy cane. Breakfast with Santa is a great event and so popular that it sells out the same morning they make the tickets available!”
Daphne was born in Carthage, but her family moved to Shreveport when she was three years old, and she grew up there. Her parents built a house in the Deadwood Community in 1997, and she moved there and lived with them until she and Donny married in 2004. She worked at First National (now Farmers State) Bank for several years and has been employed by the City of Carthage since 2004. She is still very close to her parents; in fact, she and Donny live right next door to them. Her mother, Gwen LaGrone Ray, whom Daphne describes as “a very creative person and a great seamstress,” made the Mrs. Claus costume for her.
Donny is from Marshall. His father was a pastor, so they moved around a lot, living in Tennessee, Indiana, and Louisiana in addition to several places in Texas, but returned to Marshall around 1998. He works for Hallmark Center Fixtures in Center, a company that manufactures plastic and wood fixtures like racks, stands, and displays for Hallmark Cards.
The couple met at a Super Bowl party that was actually a “fix-up” party for them. Sue Moore, who worked with Daphne at First National Bank, was also a high school friend of Donny’s dad, and the two had remained friends and stayed in touch ever since. Sue had tried to play matchmaker for the couple about two years before, but she just gave them each other’s phone numbers, and since they were both pretty content in their singleness, neither ever took the initiative to set anything up. Sue was convinced that they would make a great couple, and realizing that she was going to have to take the bull by the horns if anything was going to happen, she decided to have a Super Bowl party and invite them. Donny says, “It was pretty obvious when we got there that the party was really just an occasion to fix us up, since Sue, her husband Thomas, and my dad were the only other people there. But Sue was right; it turned out to be a great thing, a love-at-first-sight situation for both of us. We were married on October 16 after meeting on February 1. Of course I am VERY glad she had that party 14 years ago!”
Donny says he was painfully shy growing up. “I guess it really not until I got married at age 41 that I finally started coming out of my shell,” he says. “And I guess that’s because Daphne has never had a shell! She has always loved to talk and has never been shy around anyone, and she has taught me to be a little less introverted.”
In addition to their portrayal of Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Donny and Daphne also enjoy a variety of other hobbies. They like going to concerts (especially country music) and to plays at venues like the Strand Theater in Shreveport, the Dallas Music Hall, and the Belcher Center in Longview. They also love to travel, especially on cruises, and to work in their yard. Their home is one they purchased and had moved to its present site, adding on to it, completely renovating it, and doing nearly all of the renovations themselves. They attend church in Shreveport at Grace Family Worship Center. At home, Donny enjoys working with computers and Daphne with arts and crafts, and their three dogs are definitely family members.
This fun, vibrant, obviously very compatible couple could not have found a more perfect and natural calling than to portray Mr. and Mrs. Claus, that jolly, generous, and loving pair who exemplify the spirit of Christmas to children everywhere.