Jolly old St. Nicholas is accused of slapping a 7-year-old Cub Scout who yanked off his costume beard, but some community members are rallying around the retired electrician who plays Santa.
“I am a friend of Santa and his wife and I am devastated,” said scout leader Margot Collins.
Roy Keiser was entertaining a group of Cub Scouts when they began accusing him of being a fake, and one scout gave his beard a tug, said Collins.
The beard was glued to his face, and some skin came off, so he allegedly struck the child.
The boy’s father asked police to file an assault charge.
“We had to tell him that wasn’t the real Santa,” Kenneth Provencher said. “The real Santa wouldn’t have done that.”
Police were moving cautiously; no charges had been filed by Friday.
Town Selectwoman Merilyn Senter, an old friend of Keiser’s, said she probably would have slapped the boy, too.
“I just don’t understand how these kids were allowed to yank at him. I question, where was the discipline?” Senter said.
The 65-year-old Keiser is well known in the Merrimack Valley, having served as St. Nick in nearby Merrimac, Mass., for 20 years. In 1989, the town presented him with its first-ever Distinguished Community Service Award for his work as Santa and as a volunteer firefighter.
The rest of the year, he’s a white-haired, red-faced clown named “Clem” who walks an invisible dog in area parades and celebrations.
Keiser couldn’t be reached Friday. His wife said he was driving a non-English speaking family to a Boston hospital for their child’s surgery.