Santa Walt, despite terminal illness, continues bringing joy to the world
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - He isn’t really Santa. But on the long list of Santa’s support crew, Santa Walt is up there with Dasher and Dancer. Just shy of Rudolph.
At stores and homes over the past 15 years, Santa Walt Queen has had hundreds of thousands of children on his lap. He even has his own Facebook page.
“I’ve always hoped I was the ambassador of joy for the Lord,” Queen said.
Countless kids have asked him if they’re on the naughty or nice list.
“My message to the kids is forgiveness,” Queen said. “No one has done anything they can’t be forgiven for, but you have to acknowledge you’ve done something wrong.”
Santa Walt knows something about forgiveness.
On August 10, 1989: one of the most horrific crashes downtown Louisville has ever seen. A speeding trucker hits the barrier hurling a load of improperly secured junk cars into oncoming interstate traffic.
Queen’s 18 and 20-year-old daughters never had a chance.
As the man who did it sat in court convicted of reckless homicide, awaiting his prison sentence, Queen made a stunning announcement.
“Today my wife and I release you,” Queen said at the hearing. “We are not angry at you. We do not hate you. We forgive you.”
“The Lord’s Prayer is pretty specific,” Queen said. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. It’s not optional.”
Long before Queen would join Santa’s helpers and take requests all day, he asked for something. He asked the judge to change the sentence and give the trucker who killed his daughters probation instead of prison time. The judge granted Queen’s wish.
“I think I did what God wanted me to do and that’s forgive him,” Queen said. “Set him free.”
We like to think blessings abound forever for people who are able to do things like that. But now, right before Christmas, all through Santa Walt’s house, not a creature is stirring.
“I’m not just dribbling blood,” Queen said. “I’m bleeding blood.”
“They called me immediately and said you need to get to the hospital right now,” Queen said.
Santa Walt was ill. Very ill.
“CAT scan, I had a PET scan and then I had a tissue biopsy,” Queen said. “And all of these things kept leading progressively to the fact I had cancer.”
When what to my wondering eyes should appear, a little old driver, not scared of sarcoma.
“My mind says, ‘You’re in big trouble boy,’” Queen said. “But my heart keeps saying, ‘But I’ve got you, I’ve got you.’ And I choose to believe my heart. It’s the same way He told me He had me that horrible day that the girls died. It was a certainty He was gonna take care of me.”
I interviewed Queen the day before his seventh blood transfusion. At that appointment the next day, Queen learned he has stage 4 terminal cancer.
So what do you do right after you’ve been told you have terminal cancer?
For Santa Walt, that’s easy. He spoke not a word but went straight to his work.
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“Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas,” Santa Walt said walking into a children’s Christmas party.
“Dasher was the reindeer I chose to be the leader of my team,” he told the kids.
Santa Walt had an appointment he was not going to miss.
“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,” Santa Walt read from the most famous Christmas poem ever. And he let out a joyous laugh. He can’t let the kids down.
“And laying his finger aside of his nose, ha ha ha, ho ho ho.”
More laughter. They knew in a moment he must be St. Nick. They had no idea what he was dealing with.
“Do you need anything?” a parent asked during a time out. “Any way we can help?”
“Not right now,” Queen said. “It’ll get worse before it’s over. It’s a mercenary cancer. It shows no mercy for anyone. This is probably my last visit, if you think about it.”
Despite a seventh transfusion earlier in the day, Queen was weak.
“I can’t, uh, I can’t pick up my cookies,” he said while asking for help to eat his treats.
Then he wiped a tear away from the eye of one of the adults.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
“If we can connect in spirit with the Father, connect with His will, we’ll know,” Queen said. “If we do that, it doesn’t matter whether I’m healed or whether I die, because I want to be in the Lord’s will.”
“Is that the end of the story?” Santa Walt said as he closed the book.
No, it’s just the beginning. After all these visits over the years, he says the best are yet to come.
“To have my daughters come up to me and say ‘Dad, we’ve been waiting for you. It’s been a long time.’ That would be special,” Queen said. “I would hope that when I meet the Father, He would say, ‘Job well done, my good and faithful servant.’ That’s all. I don’t need any accolades by any organization, don’t need any of that. Because my organization is heavenly.”
Santa Walt starts chemotherapy on Monday. He knows he’s going to lose his beard.
His helpers have started a GoFundMe for living expenses, uncovered medical expenses, and help making sure he and his wife don’t lose their house.
You can donate by clicking or tapping here.
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