Glen Burnie Santa dies, passes suit

December 17, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

In 1937, Bill Padfield donned a red suit and beard and drove a station wagon around Glen Burnie handing out candy to children. A few years later, he assembled a sleigh on a pickup truck and made his deliveries.

One of the children who spied Mr. Padfield one Christmas Eve was Chick Schulz.

This Christmas, Mr. Schulz will keep alive the 55-year-old tradition by taking Mr. Padfield's place as Santa Claus.

Mr. Padfield, Glen Burnie's 88-year-old unofficial mayor, died Tuesday morning of pneumonia at Fort Meade's Kimbrough Army Hospital. Before going into the hospital Sunday, he packed up the red suit and white beard and told his friend, Roy Rapp, to give them to Mr. Schulz, who had played Santa's elf for more than 20 years.

"He was Santy to me all my life," Mr. Schulz said.

In 1952, Mr. Padfield retired from the Coast Guard after 28 years and took up a life of community service. His work included 34 years as president of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association, 35 years as head of the Glen Burnie Carnival and 42 years as president of the Glen Burnie Health Center.

He founded the Glen Burnie DeMolay chapter, a youth affiliate of the Masons, and acted as its adviser for 42 years. He also helped found the Glen Burnie Baptist Church and write the home rule charter for Anne Arundel, the document that established a county executive and council system of government in 1966.

But of all that he did, Mr. Padfield was best known as Santa Claus.

Mr. Schulz, 49, said he had promised Mr. Padfield that he would carry on the tradition after his death.

"It's very difficult, but it's something that has to be done," he said. "The children expect it. I'm going to keep this going forever."

Mr. Padfield first saw Glen Burnie in 1926, when his Coast Guard ship came into the Curtis Bay Coast Guard shipyard for repairs. Impressed by rolling tobacco fields and spacious homes, he and his family moved to Anne Arundel County when the Coast Guard transferred him to Curtis Bay in the early 1930s.

He and his wife of more than 60 years, Gertrude, lived in Greenland Beach and Linthicum before moving to their house on Demar Avenue. They raised a son, William Jr.

"He was a community person," said Muriel Carter, president of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association. "One of the reasons Glen Burnie is the way it is today is because of the work he did."

Mr. Padfield claimed he logged 1,000 meetings some years.

"I don't think Bill had 'no' in his vocabulary," said former state Sen. Alfred Lipin, who succeeded Mr. Padfield as president of the community association in 1987. "Bill exemplified good citizenship."

Besides his work with the Glen Burnie Improvement Association and Heath Center, he was active in the Red Cross, board chairman of the American Automobile Association of Annapolis, president of the Glen Burnie Recreation Association, a member of the Fort Meade Civilian advisory Board and active on boards and associations helping mentally disabled. He also served on the YMCA board, the Glen Burnie Chamber of Commerce, the Police advisory Board, the Anne Arundel County Libraries board, the North Arundel Hospital Board, and was a Boy Scout leader.

He was active in the Glen Burnie Masonic Lodge. He was past worshipful master of Semper Paratus Lodge No. 49 in Washington. He also was a charter member of the Glen Burnie Kiwanis Club.

But to three generations of Glen Burnie residents, Mr. Padfield was Santa.

"He never missed a year," Mr. Rapp said. "I knew years when it would rain and he would come back and his beard would be frozen ice."

Although in recent years ill health had caused him to give up boards and associations, he insisted on playing Santa. Even last year, after suffering a stroke, Mr. Padfield continued the Christmas Eve tradition.

The last time Mr. Padfield wore his Santa suit was for the Glen Burnie Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 9.

Mr. Padfield is survived by his wife and son, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The Glen Burnie Chapter of DeMolay will hold a memorial service for Mr. Padfield at 7:45 p.m. Friday at the Glen Burnie Improvement Association on Crain Highway.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Glen Burnie Improvement Association. Interment will follow in Glen Haven Memorial Park.

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