The South Hill Santa in a plaid work shirt delivered Christmas presents to thousands of needy Inland Northwest kids.
Stan Sweeting, 72, was eulogized this week as a benevolent, talented toy maker who spent his days hand-crafting Christmas presents for kids who couldn’t afford them.
In his south Spokane workshop, the retired construction supervisor worked full time for 13 years crafting at least 10,000 toys.
The toys were distributed by pickup truck to women’s shelters, Head Start programs and Indian reservations. He gave away so many that he was nicknamed the South Hill Santa.
“He had a heart for protecting children and making sure justice was lived out,” said Dave Wall, operations manager of the Union Gospel Mission. “He was making sure the wrongs were righted, and he did it through toys.”
He worked up until his death Monday. As his twice-repaired heart was failing Sunday, Sweeting spent a few hours sanding toys, said Mary Sweeting, his wife of 50 years.
“He was so worried he wouldn’t have enough for the kids this Christmas,” she said.
Sweeting supervised construction of the Riverfront Park Carrousel and other projects during his 23-year career in Spokane, which ended in 1984 with a heart bypass.
He used his skill in retirement to make wooden rocking horses, ducks and marionettes.
During a 1985 interview Sweeting had with The Spokesman-Review, his hands were covered in bandages from toy making.
“Sometimes I’ll just hear about somebody who needs a little help, you know, and I’ll do what I can,” Sweeting said.
His elves included neighbors as well as friends at a local mill. When Sweeting showed up at the Long Lake mill, top-quality boards mysteriously appeared in the scrap heap, said Gary Fox, a friend for 10 years.
“He was an individual who was full of humor and full of humility,” Fox said.
His unexpected death left a table full of unfinished toys. Sweeting’s daughter, Judy, promises to finish her father’s work for this Christmas.
“He put a smile on a lot of kids faces,” Wall said. “He did it without regard for any recognition.”
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