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We Call Him ‘Santa Steve’

Last updated on November 2nd, 2022

Dressed in his seasonal Santa costume, retired nursing professor Steven Merrill shares his full-time Christmas spirit in Hartville.

When Christmas season is in full swing in Hartville, Ohio, you may catch a glimpse of Steven Merrill, Ph.D., a retired Malone University nursing professor, at many places on our campus. He won't be wearing scrubs, of course. Instead, look for a man with an authentic white beard wearing a white fur-trimmed red jacket and pants with a broad buckled belt, a matching hat, and black boots. We call him Santa Steve, and his heart for our community and sharing joy with children bring his red coat to life. 

Steve Merrill, aka Santa Steve, greets children at Hartville Kitchen dressed as Santa Claus

Although Steve doesn't play the part of Santa year-round, compassion has long been part of his life's work. His nursing career began in 1985, and, even during his years as a professor, he continued to care for patients in area emergency rooms and critical care centers each summer.

Asked when he added Santa Claus to his resume, he says, "About 10 years ago when my beard finally got white enough."

Steve's students were among the first to notice his visual similarities to Santa Claus. Although he never considered taking Santa jobs before, he decided to explore the opportunity because, he says, "I love working with children, and I enjoy the holidays. Just any excuse to be Santa."

Retired nursing professor Steve Merrill sits by Hartville Kitchen fireplace with Santa costume on in Hartville, Ohio

Santa Steve quickly became known as an excellent option in the santa-for-hire market, playing Santa Claus for various schools and festivals, as well as portraying the historic Saint Nicholas for church programs. At Hartville Kitchen, you'll usually find him near our fireplace with children on his lap or greeting our guests at banquets. He's even Santa to area pets and their owners at Hartville Hardware. These visits with Santa are always free and open to the public, which is important to Steve.

"I want children and their families to be able to see Santa without any charge," he says.

He books up every weekend he can during December each year but finds the overload of Santa work well worth it. His heart for people embodies what the holiday season is all about, and we’re grateful to have such a special person as part of our festivities.

Santa Steve will be waiting to meet boys and girls at Hartville Kitchen, and we can’t wait to be merry with you this year!