An Iowa couple who for more than a decade delighted children by playing the parts of Santa and Mrs. Claus were involved in a crash Saturday morning that killed the woman and seriously injured her husband.
Jack and Joyce Daniels, both 79, of St. Charles, were on their yearly rounds as St. Nick and his wife when their Chevy Suburban spun out of control on an icy road outside Winterset, according to the Des Moines Register. The vehicle rolled and came to a stop upside down in a ditch.
Joyce Daniels was killed, and Jack Daniels was critically injured, the newspaper reported. He was hospitalized and is recovering from his injuries.
Larry Daniels, Jack Daniels’ younger brother, told the Register that the couple had been visiting children as Santa and Mrs. Claus for at least 15 years.
“They loved children and loved to make them happy,” Daniels said. “They’d give them small gifts, all out of their own pocket.”
Another brother, Claude Daniels, said that on one recent outing, the couple saw nearly 150 children.
One of the couple’s grandchildren, Charles Daniels, said on Facebook that he was glad his grandparents were getting the recognition they deserved for their actions in “such a great and happy time of year.”
“I know it was always awesome seeing Grandpa and Grandma show up for family events bearing gifts for all the kids,” he wrote. “Then to see my own kids have the same reaction I once shared. What a true blessing to be a part of.”
Others who knew the couple mourned Joyce Daniels on social media.
“There just aren’t words to express how heartbroken I am at the loss of Joyce,” wrote Katie Beghtel. “Such a beautiful woman inside and out. The community will miss her so very much. She brought such joy to the faces of so many little children.”
Beghtel wrote that Jack Daniels is a man with a big heart who makes children’s eyes light up all year round.
“So many children know him as Santa and brag about knowing where Santa ‘actually’ lives,” she wrote.
A former St. Charles mayor told the Register that the couple was the most active Santa and Mrs. Claus she’d ever seen.
“Any place there were children who wanted to see Santa Claus, that’s where they’d be,” Joan Brown said. “It’s really devastating.”
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