Biker Santa spreads Christmas cheer at Autumn Care

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

When he visited the Autumn Care nursing home on Friday afternoon, Santa Claus gave Dasher, Dancer, Vixen, and Rudolph a break. Instead, he hopped on his 1998 Ultra Classic Harley Davidson and motored his sack of Christmas toys to the residents.

&uot;I bring candy, stuffed animals and holiday cheer,&uot; said Robert Johnson, in his second year of entertaining the home where his grandmother, Cary Bunch, spent her final years. &uot;My grandmother enjoyed Christmas. I’d pick her up and take her home for the holidays. A lot of people here don’t have families, and I come to put a smile on their faces. This is my Christmas, too.&uot;

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He strolled through the halls of the home, handing out candy to the residents and staff.

&uot;You’ve got two weeks to straighten up and fly right for when I come back,&uot; he said to Tony Fillmore, handing him a candy cane. &uot;Here’s something to remember me by.&uot;

&uot;I hope he brings me my good health,&uot; said Fillmore. &uot;That’s all I really need, and I’ll do the rest. It’ll probably be tough for me this Christmas, because I’d like to be out enjoying myself; anyone would. Seeing him made me feel better.&uot;

Though he was left paralyzed after a motorcycle accident 25 years ago, Mike Martinez would be back on the two-wheelers if he could.

&uot;I’d love to ride again,&uot; said Martinez, at Autumn Care for rehabilitation after an upcoming surgery. &uot;It hasn’t slowed me down. I still ride ATVs in the woods. I loved seeing Santa on a Harley – it’s the only bike to ride!&uot;

Bunch, said staff development coordinator Deborah Jennings, was one of Autumn Care’s brightest stars.

&uot;She was very well-loved by her family,&uot; Jennings said. &uot;She was very pleasant to be around, not a difficult person to take care of. She must have been very devoted to her children, from the way they treated her.&uot;

In the dining room, Autumn Care president Tim Lawrence helped straighten up for the annual Christmas party.

&uot;The residents really enjoy (Johnson’s) visit,&uot; Lawrence said. &uot;He shows them the true meaning of Christmas. Some of them don’t have a lot of visitors. To see a face they recognize is very important to them.&uot;