Santa comes in many different faces but it takes a special person to be a real Santa. Here at the Northwest Railway Museum we are proud to have had a real Santa: Francis Davenport. Mr. Davenport died Saturday, December 6 at his home in North Bend. He was 74.
Francis grew up in the Snoqualmie Valley and after 3 years in the US Army became a plywood grader at the Weyerhaeuser Snoqualmie mill. (In the days of his youth, that operation was known as the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company.) Later, he became a custodian for the Issaquah School District. For many, however, he was simply Santa Claus. He is survived by his wife Marcia, sister Barbara, four sons, two daughters, 11 grandchildren, 2 great grand children, and many thousands of friends and admirers.
There are many stories we can tell about Santa that will put a smile on nearly anyone's face. Here is one of our favorites: On a Saturday back in the late 1990s, Santa had to leave promptly after the last train so he could attend a party in North Bend. One of his family members brought his pickup truck and trailer to the museum all decked out with a sleigh, colorful lighting and eight tiny reindeer. Shortly after departing from the Snoqualmie Depot, a police car pulled him over. Santa was told by the young officer that he was too much of a distraction to other drivers and would have to disconnect his lighting. Well Santa was none too happy but agreed to comply. On Monday, word reached the Mayor of Snoqualmie who was outraged. “Leave Santa alone” was the short and simple memo he sent to the police chief. So Santa got to keep his sleigh, lights and eight tiny reindeer.
The Northwest Railway Museum is privileged and honored to have been graced by the kind service of “Frannie Claus.” In his time with the Museum he received an estimated 100,000 children of all ages including a sitting Washington State Governor, numerous elected representatives, and people from nearly every walk of life from across Western Washington, and even Oregon and British Columbia. Francis, we are going to miss your friendship, your humor, and your incredible ability to please so many people. And to all a good night.