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Wednesday November 14, 2012

Merrill T. (Bud) Whelan

Self-made man, insurance broker, Santa Claus, grandfather. Born Aug. 7, 1937, in Charlottetown, died June 17, 2012, in Charlottetown from suicide, aged 74.

To say Bud was a self-made man is an understatement. With little formal education, he became a very prosperous insurance broker.

He was successful in business because of his warm and engaging personality: He always had a joke and a smile for everyone. But more importantly, his clients knew he was responsible and trustworthy. When adversity happened, you could rely on Bud.

He was the definitive Santa Claus. He felt the Santas of his day lacked class, so he set up a Santa business with his cousin and, later, his brother-in-law. They went to Toronto for their tailor-made suits, wigs, beards, bells and leather boots.

To add a little extra, they bought a system of hidden receivers and microphones that allowed Santa's helper to feed him information gathered from the parents once the child went up to see him.

It was very special to watch a child's eyes widen in amazement as Santa talked about their family pet by name, the colour of their house and exactly what they wanted for Christmas.

One of Bud's many stories was about a young girl whose mother said her daughter had stopped believing in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

As the girl approached, Santa's helper imparted the basic information to Bud - name, age, pets - and also the fact that the girl had hidden her last tooth, saying that if the Tooth Fairy was real she would know where to find it. Her parents had searched high and low, to no avail.

Bud spotted the gap in the girl's teeth

"You've lost a tooth," he said.

"Yes," replied the little girl, "and the Tooth Fairy didn't come."

"Well," said Bud. "I was back at the North Pole last night and the Tooth Fairy was really upset because she couldn't find your tooth. Now, if you tell me where it is, I'll tell her and she'll come and pick it up."

When the little girl went skipping off to her parents, Bud approached her mother.

"I'm sure you need to give Santa a hug," Bud told her.

"I'd love to, Santa," the mother replied and threw her arms around him.

"The tooth is at the back of her top drawer near her coloured socks," Bud whispered.

Bud loved politics, and for many years was a volunteer for the federal Conservative government. He would meet visiting officials at Charlottetown airport and escort them to various locations.

Also as a volunteer, he delivered newspapers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

He always said he hoped he would never be in a position, health-wise, where he was completely dependent on others for his well-being.

Bud loved a party. He could often be seen, drink in hand, holding court to an audience totally enthralled in gales of laughter.

Bud shared almost 50 years of marriage with the love of his life, Marie. They enjoyed travelling, parties and just being together. They produced three wonderful children, Lori, Elizabeth and Andrew, and Bud's grandchildren Nick, Daniel and Sara were the light of his life.

Paul Whelan is Bud's cousin.

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