Richard Brookins: American St. Nick
December 9, 2017
It was truly an honor to have Richard Brookins and his family at the museum. Though Mr. Brookins didn't arrive by army jeep or wear the vestments of St. Nickolas, his appearance brought a lot of joy to those in attendance (and maybe even a tear or too).
The simple desire to bring joy into the lives of children during a horrific war, became something far more.
In December of 1944, Corporal Richard Brookins and the 28th Signal Company of the 28th Infantry Division were assigned to the small town of Wiltz, Luxembourg for a brief respite after a difficult battle.
The town had recently been liberated by Allied Forces after four long years of German occupation. Fellow soldier, Corporal Harry Stutz soon discovered that the children had not been allowed to celebrated St. Nicholas Day during the occupation. The American soldiers decided that they would organize a party for the town's children.
The soldiers donated all the candy and chocolate from their rations. The units field kitchen fried donuts and baked cakes for the party.
. . . all that was needed was St. Nicholas.
Looking for a figure who would stand out in a crowd, the lanky Corporal Brookins was asked to play the part.
Dressed in long robes and wearing a bishops mitre, St. Nick arrived by jeep to start the festivities.
At a time when war overshadowed everything, a group of American soldiers and the families of Wiltz shared in a simple celebration that reminded them of the past and gave them hope for the future.
Ten days later the Battle of the Bulge began, the town of Wiltz became a major battleground and was very nearly destroyed.
The kindness of the American soldiers on that St Nicholas Day in 1944 was not forgotten. Once the war was over, the town began to celebrate the American St. Nicholas each December. In 1977 Richard was asked to return to Wiltz to reprise his role.
In the years that have followed, Richard and his family have returned to Wiltz on a number of occasions to participate in the St. Nicholas Day festivities and to remember the sacrifices made by those who fought and died during the war.
To learn more:
World War II Foundation www.wwiifoundation.org...
America in WWII www.americainwwii.com/...
American St. Nick Book www.americanstnick.com
Santa Claus Hall of Fame www.santaclaushall.com/...
WEBSTER MUSEUM AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY
18 Lapham Park Webster, New York 14580 585.265.3308