Barron Lake’s Mrs. Claus

Published 5:20 pm Monday, December 23, 2013

Rosalie Stephens kneels next to a large Santa Claus display that dances and plays Christmas music when powered on. Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Rosalie Stephens kneels next to a large Santa Claus display that dances and plays Christmas music when powered on. Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Rosalie Stephens is her real name. But the 80-year-old Niles resident might be better known around the Barron Lake community as Mrs. Claus, or, depending on who you ask, Mrs. Christmas.

“That’s what my TV man calls me,” said Stephens while sitting in her family room Friday, surrounded by Christmas ornaments. “I have a Mrs. Claus suit I put on sometimes when the kids come over. Boy those things are hot. You don’t realize it until you’ve been in it for an hour.”

In case you couldn’t tell already, Stephens takes Christmas very seriously.

Her quaint home on Barron Lake in Howard Township is literally filled wall-to-wall with Christmas decorations this time of year.

She’s got plush Santas, singing Santas, Mickey Mouse dressed as Santa and even a Santa working on a computer.

Stephens doesn’t skimp on the outside of her home either, which is instantly recognizable for anyone traveling by on Huntly Road. The lawn is almost completely covered with hundreds of items, including Christmas trees, wreathes, candy canes, snowmen and even an inflatable Santa playing on a teeter-totter with two elves.

“I just love to decorate,” said Stephens. “I have a passion for it. I don’t care if it’s (Christmas) or something else.”

Stephens estimates she’s collected nearly 1,000 Christmas decorations over the past 20 years. Stephens has so many decorations she can’t put them all out. She said she bought a fourth shed this summer just for storage.

“I started a little at a time and built it into something outrageous,” she said.

Stephens began collecting after her husband, John, passed away from cancer around 20 years ago. Prior to that, she did little decorating at all.

“I was lucky to have a tree. He (John) was just a bah-humbug guy,” Stephens said. “Because I was by myself and I live alone my time was my own. I could decorate how I felt. It keeps me busy and it makes me feel like I accomplished something for others to enjoy. If you are down and see all of this it lifts your spirits.”

Stephens isn’t always alone as her grandchildren and neighborhood kids like to stop by and play with her decorations.

She just sits back in her chair and takes it all in.

“I get such enjoyment out of watching them smile and play. That’s my favorite part,” Stephens said. “Anyone is welcome.”

Stephens begins decorating in September and often doesn’t finish until well into December. The takedown process starts in January and lasts a couple months.

She does it all herself.

“Every year it is more of a challenge for me, but I just keep chugging along because I’m not ready to give up yet,” she said. “I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m around.”

Stephens’ daughter-in-law, Cheri, who lives a couple miles away, appreciates the effort.

“It’s amazing what she does. I just love to drive by it because it just brightens my day,” Cheri said.