Visions Of Way Too Many Santas



Most of us have spent many a fitful night hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus. Marilyn Wolfe has nightmares about seeing too many Santa Clauses.

Wolfe, the chairperson of the town's annual Main Street/APS Electric Light Parade, is focused on organizing this year's parade around a single Santa Claus.


Marilyn Wolfe

"The easiest thing to put on a float is Santa, so we had way too many Santas last year," Wolfe said. "The children were asking questions."

As a result, Wolfe has decided that town Fire Marshal Jack Babb will be the lone Santa this year.

"Last year, the town had its own Santa, too," Wolfe said. "They have a Christmas party each year for the kids."

Wolfe met with town Parks Director Bill Schwind and the two events will now be coordinated. The town's party for children will begin at 3:30 p.m. at Julia Randall Elementary School's historic Rock Building. At 6 p.m., Santa Babb will go across the street for the lighting of the official town Christmas tree at Green Valley Park.

Then he'll lead the electric light parade, which this year will go in the opposite direction -- beginning at the park and ending at Sawmill Crossing.

"Santa will ride in a bright red convertible," Wolfe said. "We hope to have Jim Paxon as grand marshal."

The decision to reverse the direction of the parade just made sense, according to Wolfe.

"It's so cold at the park, and people don't like to hang around for the tree lighting after the parade," she said.

Wolfe's efforts as last year's parade chairperson recently earned her a nomination as Arizona Main Street Program Individual of the Year. Her nomination, in part, reads:

"Marilyn Wolfe may be small of stature, but she is not small on energy, ideas, organization and follow through ... With the outstanding job she did in 2002 (when over 3,000 people attended the event), there is no reason to believe that this year's event won't be even more spectacular ... Every Main Street program should be as lucky as we are."

The winner will be announced at the Governor's Conference on Rural Development, which will take place in Prescott during the first week of October. Last year, the electric light parade itself took top honors in the "Best Special Event" category.

Besides chairing the parade, Wolfe is active in the Payson Art League, is treasurer of the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation, is vice president of the Tonto Community Concert Association, and serves as organist/pianist for Payson United Methodist Church. She began taking piano lessons when she was three years old and had her own recital at the age of five.

"Music," she said, "has always been an important part of my life."

Wolfe and husband Dick, a member of the Payson Town Council and a silversmith and jewelry maker, met in the Valley.

"I was born and raised in Cheyenne, Wyo.," Wolfe recalled. "I never thought about leaving there, but then my husband at the time needed a heart transplant.

"The doctors in Cheyenne referred us to Dr. Ted Dietrich at the Arizona Heart Institute. We moved to Phoenix, and he lived 16 months after the transplant. During that time I made many wonderful friends and fell in love with Arizona."

A short time after her husband died, a mutual friend insisted that he introduce her to Dick.

"I truly believe it was some kind of divine intervention," Wolfe said. "I had been through some very sad events through those years, and my life totally changed."

They were married in 1987, and decided to retire early and move to a smaller, cooler place.

"We wanted to pick just the right spot," Wolfe said. "We went everywhere, but when we saw Payson and drove around, we knew this was it."

They bought property, had a house built, and moved to Payson in 1992. Their goal was to truly retire and take life easy, but they soon realized it wasn't in their nature.

"We were still finishing our home when we moved here, but once our projects were finished we looked at each other and said, ‘What are we going to do now?' We really hadn't thought about how much we liked to be involved."

That's when Dick became immersed in town government and decided to give silversmithing a try.

"The jewelry making is therapy for what the politics causes him," Wolfe said with a laugh.

Now the Wolfes are sometimes busier than they would like to be, but they know it's a lot better than sitting around the house.

Besides, as head of the electric light parade, Wolfe gets to think about Christmas every day. "I just love Christmas, and I love organizing things and making them happen," she said.


Name: Marilyn Wolfe

Occupation: Organist/Pianist

Employer: Payson United Methodist Church

Age: I don't think I want to go there, you're only as old as you feel.

Birthplace: Cheyenne, Wyo.

Family: Four children -- 11 grandchildren -- three great-grandchildren

Personal Motto: Live each day to the fullest -- treat others as you would like to be treated.

Inspiration: My family and church family

Greatest feat: I've been playing at church services at PUMC for more than 10 years.

My favorite hobby or leisure activity is: Music, and walking my little Yorkie.

The three words that describe me best: Perfectionist, a bit impatient, caring.

I don't want to brag, but: I have been blessed with a wonderful family and friends who support me in the many activities that I'm involved in.

The person in history I'd most like to meet is: Jacqueline Kennedy

Luxury defined: My husband Dick, our spa and a good bottle of wine.

Dream vacation spot: Maui

Why Payson? I love this little town for its beauty and the many wonderful, friendly people who live here. It's fun to be involved in a small town, and get to know so many great folks.

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