Leo Peters was a very creative graphic artist, songwriter and professional Santa Claus – and a longtime participant in these columns. I first connected with the jovial gentleman from Calgary at Cochrane Coffee Traders back in 2005, the start of our almost weekly custom. Sadly, he won’t be sipping with us any longer, but his legacy of hugs and happiness lingers on in his songs.
For instance, a few years before we met, while recovering from cancer, he wrote a song in honour of the nurse who took such good care of him (youtube.com/watch?v=wFRPZT6IxMA). Nurse Angel exults:
Nurse angel, nurse angel,
You sparkle and you’re bright–
You’re like the old lamplighter
Lighting someone else’s light–
Nurse angel, you’re so beautiful
You’ve got this loving heart–
for the work you’re in
Your work’s a work of art
The curly white-haired chap with a very full white beard pointed to positive changes in his life that resulted from his choices amidst the smoke and haze of serious illness.
“Change comes about when we are ready to try new approaches to the challenges we face. Change comes when we have a wake-up call, like an illness or accident or close call, or the loss of the love of another.
“For me it came when my prostate cancer came back in 2001 and I thought I had six months to live. I decided it was going to be the best six months of my life.
“Then I decided, what if my treatment works, why not live the rest of my life to the fullest? I chose to live, love, laugh, sing and be happy every day of my life.
“I cherished every sunrise. I uplifted the spirit of all I met. I took a comedy course and started doing stand-up comedy. I joined a choir, and performed in song and dance musicals. I started going out to karaoke two to three nights a week. I started writing songs again and learning the craft of songwriting. I became a full-time Santa and got really busy November 15th till Christmas.”
Yes, what could have so easily driven him to give up became an invitation instead for a rewarding new life, he said. “Every adversity we have is a gift to make us stronger and push us on to be the best we can be and to uplift the spirit of others through love, laughter and song.”
His experiences as a Santa certainly affirmed that. “Over Christmas Santa gets a lot of hugs,” he told me. And he chose to pass on a hug of his own to our friendly foothills town in these concluding verses:
I love Cochrane; I love country
Cochrane’s country at heart
It’s the Rockies in the sunshine
And it’s dancing after dark
I love Cochrane—
it’s country at heart
I love Cochrane—
it’s country at heart.
Santa Leo finished his mortal journey on Jan. 3 at the age of 81. Welcome, friend, to your new home in the land beyond the sunset, where you may already be embracing your new role as songster for all the heavenly angels.
© 2021 Warren Harbeck