RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – Bill Dexter of Georgetown is a true-to-life Santa Claus, spreading comfort, joy and good will toward children, adults and the underprivileged during the holiday season as well as all year round.
At 6-foot-4 with a big belly and a natural long white beard, Dexter personifies the true meaning of Christmas by volunteering more than 200 hours annually with Connecticut Hospice Inc. to visit fundraisers, hospitals, hospices, parties and other public events as Santa Claus.
This yeah, the Christmas season has been a busy one for Dexter, who has visited holiday events at community centers, senior centers and hospices in Ridgefield, New Canaan, Stamford and Greenwich.
He has traveled as far as Paramus, N.J., to attend a party at Neiman Marcus and West Point, N.Y., to meet with retired veterans in a hospice.
Dexter has made stops at The Christmas Village in Torrington, the Neon Center in Norwalk and the McGivney Center in Bridgeport.
He said no matter where he goes, people are always overjoyed to see Santa Claus.
“The response with small children and elderly adults can be quite similar — it is always positive and with smiles,” he said.
The Santa visits make him appreciate how “rich and lucky” he is in his own life, Dexter said. He had a touching visit recently with a hospice patient shortly before her passing. She did not want him to sing a Christmas carol and asked instead for an Australian folk song, due to her Australian heritage.
When Dexter sang, “Reedy River,” the woman began to cry. When he finished, the woman, with tears streaming down her face, took Dexter’s hand and said she believed he was the real Santa Claus because he took her home again.
“Portraying Santa Claus makes me feel great,” Dexter said. “It transcends normal daily life, and brings it to a place where anything is possible.”
Lonnie Shapiro, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker and Dexter's friend, said he is a gift from God.
“He is a very special person and a generous, kind and wonderful man,” she said.
For more information about Connecticut Hospice Inc., visit its website.