Real Life Eastern Kentucky Santa Claus

By: Steve Hensley Email
By: Steve Hensley Email

For some of you, this Christmas will be bittersweet because it will be the first one without a loved one.

The WSGS radio family lost Ernest Sparkman this year, but he left behind countless recordings, including some that are extra special this time of year.

It was Ernest Sparkman who belted out that jolly ho ho ho that's been heard for decades on WSGS and WKIC in Hazard.

Even after his death, Listeners are still hearing santa's voice.

Sparkman talked about playing Santa Claus during his last interview with WYMT.

"I just look back on those years as a lot of fun you know." Said Sparkman in the interview.

What many people may not know is that Sparkman did not just play Santa on the radio.

Just two days before Christmas in 2001, Perry Central's School Resource Officer Jeff Ritchie's home burned to the ground.

"With the exception of the clothes we were wearing, my bible and our car, we lost pretty much everything we had." Says Ritchie.

The day after the fire, on Christmas Eve, Ritchie got a phone call.

"Santa Claus was on the other end. I recognized his voice immediately from hearing it for years on the radio and Mr. Sparkman said he heard about our tragedy and wanted to know how he could help." Says Ritchie.

A few days later, what Ritchie calls a substantial check was in the mail.

Ritchie says the help he received from Sparkman and others changed him that Christmas.

"I know I could never pay that back but I try to pay it forward. If I see someone else in need I always try to give a little extra to someone. That's where I was at one time." Says Ritchie.

Ritchie calls Sparkman one of his heroes.

"He didn't know me, didn't know my family, knew nothing about me, but he just stepped up and that's the kind of man Mr. Sparkman was. He just stepped up when the time was needed and came to my rescue." Says Ritchie.

Ernest Sparkman died in January at the age of 84.


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