GENEVA – A man with a strong resemblance to Santa Claus sat on a bench in front of the Third Street fireplace in Geneva, waiting for the annual Christmas Walk to begin.
His pants were red, his shirt was red and white striped under a white pullover, his scarf was red and green with sparkles.
But it was his Santa hat, ruddy cheeks and white whiskers that lent him the air of the famed St. Nicholas.
A couple with a little girl walked past on the sidewalk behind him. The little girl stopped and stared. He turned and asked if she’d been a good girl this year. Eyes wide, she replied that she had been good.
The Santa-like man reached into his bag, pulled out a stuffed animal monkey and offered it to her. She took it, smiled, and the family went on.
Meet Gordon Brouillette, a bus driver for Bourbonnais Township Park District who brought 28 people to the Geneva Christmas Walk Dec.7 and decided to have a little Christmas cheer of his own, all owing to his resemblance to the real Santa Claus
“I start growing the beard the day after Thanksgiving and I shave it off the first of the year,” Brouillette said. “Mrs. Claus says the beard has to go."
Brouillette said he enjoys appearing to be Santa.
“It makes children happy and it makes me happy,” Brouillette said.
"I was at the Star Bucks and a lady gave me a pair of warm socks to give to one of the bell-ringers," Brouillette said. "She did not have socks on."
The bell-ringer accepted the socks with tears in her eyes, he said.
He told of a brother in North Carolina with a white goatee who is also often mistaken for Santa.
The brother will say he is not Santa, but will pull out his cell phone and show children a photo of Brouillette looking like Santa – and tells them that's his brother.
Brouillette's cell phone rang.
He puts the interview on hold for a moment.
"It's Mrs. Claus," he whispers, gesturing the the phone.
She had instructions: Buy four strings of 30 each, LED lights in warm white, self-timing.
Even an almost-Santa has a boss.