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Helper shares magic of Santa for 5 decades

(Editor's NOTE: This story appeared in The Augusta Chronicle on Christmas Day. Since Mr. Muherin is known by many in the Thomson area, we thought it fitting to share it with our readers in The McDuffie Mirror this week to cap off the holiday season).

Brian J. Mulherin Sr. loves Christmas.

For more than five decades, Mr. Mulherin has been one of Santa Claus' dozens of helpers in the Augusta area. And he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I'm not one of those paid Santa Claus helpers," says the 86-year-old Mr. Mulherin, who is known throughout Georgia. "For me this isn't a job. It's something I enjoy doing because I like to make kids and their parents happy. It makes me happy to make them happy."

Mr. Mulherin first became a Santa Claus helper in 1959. Three suits later, he's still playing the jolly old man, Saint Nicholas.

His heart was touched by a woman who wrote a letter in 1958 to The Augusta Chronicle , complaining that her young son wasn't able to see Santa Claus well during the annual Christmas parade that strolled along Broad Street. Back then, it was sponsored by the Augusta Merchants Association.

"I felt so sorry for that little boy and I didn't even know him," recalled Mr. Mulherin. "I was able to get in touch with his mother to let her know that Santa Claus had seen her son during the parade. I wanted to comfort that little boy a little bit."

Mr. Mulherin knew right then what he wanted to do.

"I love being a Santa Claus helper," said Mr. Mulherin, who has played the role with the Augusta Exchange Club, Augusta Rotary Club, Uptown Kiwanis Club and at East Central Regional Hospital.

"He's a fantastic man and Santa Claus helper," exclaims Gerald Woods, president and chief executive officer of the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation in Augusta. "Brian is so friendly and so jolly. He brings a lot of happiness and joy to lots of boys and girls."

Mr. Woods, a former Augusta city councilman, described Mr. Mulherin as a man who is always doing something to make the community a better place.

"He's a wonderful asset to our community," said Mr. Woods.

Mr. Mulherin is a double-retiree. He enjoyed a 34-year career as personnel director at East Central Regional Hospital, formerly known as Georgia Regional Hospital at Augusta and Gracewood State School and Hospital. He also retired from the U.S. Army Reserve, starting as a private and rising to the rank of colonel.

Mr. Mulherin serves as a volunteer at East Central Regional Hospital through the CSRA Senior Citizens Council.

"I volunteer 20 hours a week," said Mr. Mulherin. "I really enjoy giving back. I guess you could say that I just care a lot about people."

Throughout the year, Mr. Mulherin participates in retirement ceremonies, art shows, holiday parades and tree lightings, and volunteer assignments. He also is active with the Mental Health Association of Greater Augusta and earlier this year was named CSRA Mental Health Advocate of the Year.

Mr. Mulherin says he plans to be a Santa Claus helper for as long as his health will allow.

"I love it," he added. "I really do. It makes me happy and I think it makes a lot of other people happy too. That's what it's all about and understanding the true meaning of Christmas -- the celebration of Jesus Christ's birthday."

Mr. Mulherin is married to Neita Mulherin. The couple has 10 children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Web posted on Thursday, December 31, 2009

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