March 2004

A Big Year for Flying Santa

By Jeremy D'Entremont



The schedule of this past December's Friends of Flying Santa flights was interrupted by stormy weather in the first half of the month, but the trips eventually went off without a hitch. The Massachusetts flight included a dozen stops from Newburyport to Cape Cod. The pilot was Evan Wile, who generously donated his services for the second year in a row. Santa for this flight was CWO Tom Guthlein, commanding officer of Coast Guard Station Castle Hill, who first filled the role in 1997-98 and has just returned from a tour of duty in Virginia. Joining Tom for the first half of the flight was Captain Daniel May, commander of USCG Group Boston.

The Massachusetts flight included a special flyover of Hospital Point Lighthouse in Beverly, which is the home of First Coast Guard District Commander Rear Admiral Vivien S. Crea and her family. Admiral Crea, a helicopter pilot herself, said later, "Quite simply, we were thrilled to become part of such a wonderful tradition. I greatly admire the kindness and generosity of the many volunteers and contributors to the Flying Santa program."

Dolly Snow Bicknell and Seamond Ponsart Roberts

Along for the second half of the Massachusetts trip as Santa's helper, or "elf," was Seamond Ponsart Roberts of New Orleans, Louisiana. Seamond is the daughter of lighthouse keeper Octave Ponsart, and an episode from Seamond's childhood days at Cuttyhunk Lighthouse off the Massachusetts coast is among the most famous tales in Flying Santa annals.

In 1945, when Seamond was barely five years old, Flying Santa Edward Rowe Snow dropped three packages for the Ponsarts at Cuttyhunk. One of the packages contained a doll intended for Seamond, and it struck a boulder when it landed. She couldn't hold back the tears when she found the broken doll, even though her father did his best to fix it. Soon after this, the Cuttyhunk Light Station was closed down and the Ponsarts moved to West Chop Lighthouse on Martha's Vineyard.

When Edward Rowe Snow learned the doll had broken, he decided to make up for it. The following Christmas, Snow hired a helicopter and pilot and landed at Martha's Vineyard, where he handed a brand-new doll to little Seamond. She now says that she "could not have ever felt more special in her life because this Flying Santa was kindness and love personified." So recently when she was invited to fly along with Santa as an "elf," Seamond said she "would walk from Louisiana if I had to, in order to do it."
"The magic of the Flying Santa continues and is alive and well," reports Seamond. Some of the stops this year had extra special meaning for her. At Plymouth Light (known to many simply as "The Gurnet"), she met Dolly Snow Bicknell, daughter of Edward Rowe Snow. Dolly is now president of Project Gurnet and Bug Lights, the nonprofit group caring for Plymouth Light and Duxbury Pier Light. Dolly was waiting for Santa and Seamond along with her daughter Laura and two grandchildren at the top of the lighthouse. "After many false alarms," she says, "I could see Santa!"

"This was so wonderful for me," says Seamond. "Dolly had dug some pictures out of her attic of her Dad and even a few of her Dad and me, along with his own Santa hat. I touched it and I swear I really felt five years old again."

Seamond had corresponded with the Snow family for many years but had never before met Dolly, who flew with her father on his Santa flights every year from the year she was born in 1951 through 1980. "It was wonderful to be with Seamond," says Dolly. "I'm so glad we got a chance to meet each other. Seamond was grinning from ear to ear and so was I, and we hugged and cried and it was wonderful."

Among the later stops that day was one at West Chop Lighthouse, where Seamond's family had lived for 11 years. "The children of the Coast Guard from Station Menemsha were there to greet us," says Seamond, "and we had a great toy giveaway sitting on the very back porch where I had played many years." With a few precious minutes to spare, Seamond had the opportunity to enter her old house, now used as Coast Guard vacation housing. "I was satisfied," says Seamond. "I had been back into the cellar where I spent many hours playing with my cats or watching Dad make ship models. It was home, indeed." Seamond also made a quick trip to the top of the lighthouse. Well, maybe not that quick. "I'm not - at least in body - the lighthouse kid I used to be," she says. "It was hard to leave, but too exciting to miss the rest of the trip."

The New Hampshire-Maine flight took place the following Saturday, December 20th, with Santa and veteran Flying Santa pilots Art Godjikian and LaRay Todd. The first stop of the day at Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor in New Hampshire was well-attended as always. This was quickly followed by stops at Goat Island, Portland Head Light, Boothbay Harbor and Pemaquid Point Light in Maine.

A good turnout greeted Santa at Owls Head Light Station, including Ken Black (director of the Maine Lighthouse Museum) and his wife Dot Black (co-chair of the Friends of Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse). Santa George gave Dot's granddaughter some extra attention.

About 100 kids greeted Santa at Vinalhaven Island, home of Brown's Head Lighthouse. At Fort Point Light in Stockton Springs, resident caretakers Terry and Jeri Cole had arranged for 25 hearing-impaired children to be on hand along with two sign-language interpreters. Following were visits to Dice Head Lighthouse in Castine and Coast Guard stations at Southwest Harbor and Jonesport. At Jonesport, the personnel timed things so that Santa arrived in the middle of their Christmas party.

Lou Belloisy, Santa Dave and Glenn Hanson

The final Flying Santa flight this year was the next day, covering stops in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Long Island. Santa for this flight was Coast Guard CWO Dave Waldrip, who is stationed at Naval Engineering Support Unit Boston. Dave has flown as Santa since 1994, minus a couple of years when he was stationed in Alaska. The helicopter services were provided compliments of pilots Glenn Hanson and Lou Belloisy. This was the second year that Glenn has donated the use of his Jet Ranger for the Santa flights. Dave met with Friends of Flying Santa president and photographer Brian Tague at 5 a.m. and drove from Massachusetts to Connecticut for takeoff. First stop was Warwick Light Station, home of CDR Tom Jones, commander of Civil Engineering Unit Providence (Congratulations to Tom for receiving the 2004 USCG Engineer of the Year award!) The rest of the day included visits to Prudence Island, Station Castle Hill, Station Point Judith, Lynde Point Light, Stratford Point Light and finally Station Eaton's Neck on Long Island, where the pilots were happy to tour the lighthouse and take photos of its second order Fresnel lens.

Dave Waldrip says the flights were "once again a success due to the hard work of all the members of the board, volunteers, people who graciously contribute to the program, and of course the pilots and owners of the helicopters." Friends of Flying Santa is looking forward to the 2004 flights and the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Capt. William Wincapaw's first flight.


Special Delivery - A return to tradition

By Brian Tague

Last December's Massachusetts flight marked a special return to the traditional delivery method of the Flying Santa gift package. USCG Rear Admiral Vivien Crea is the commander of the Coast Guard First District and resides with her husband Ron Rutledge at Hospital Point Light in Beverly, MA. They have shown a special interest in the Flying Santa flights and have been very supportive of the Friends of Flying Santa mission. We had hoped to include their lighthouse in one of our flights, but unfortunately the topography of Hospital Point is not suitable for a helicopter landing. We decided to make an attempt at delivering one of our packages by special "air" delivery. After much careful packing and wrapping, we had what we hoped would be a durable bundle of ornaments, coffee, candy, an Edward Rowe Snow book and other items.

Evan Wile, Santa Tom and Capt. Dan May

Our crew for the flight, included pilot Evan Wile, Santa CWO Tom Guthlein, Santa's helper Capt. Dan May and myself. Before we took off, there was much discussion about how we would carry out the package drop. There was talk of opening the helicopter's rear door and having Santa Tom toss the package. I was concerned about Santa losing his hat, wig or beard and then where would be for the rest of the trip. There was a suggestion that he remove these items before the drop. But having an uncovered Santa would not do. We did not think the package would fit through the window, but because we had reduced the size of the Hospital Point box (to increase its chance of surviving the fall) it fit through with just enough room for Tom's hands.

Hospital Point Light

We had notified Admiral Crea of our expected arrival time scheduled between our Annisquam and Boston Light landings. As we made our first pass over the light, we spotted her and her husband, bedecked in Santa hats, standing on the lawn. Evan circled the light to determine the best approach for making our delivery run. Santa Tom positioned the festively wrapped package halfway out the small window of the back door as he waited for word to release it. As we were lining up our final run out over the water, Evan said "OK Brian, you call it." Well now, not feeling entirely comfortable with the responsibility of determining the exact moment of release for our payload, I politely declined. With a Coast Guard Warrant Officer and Group Commander on board, I thought the responsibility of dropping a fairly solid projectile over the Admiral's house would be better left to the highest rank on board. With all the excitement, I am not sure just who did make the final call, but the package was let go from a height of over 150 feet as we flew over the point. I watched as it hit the top branches of a tree and proceed to step its way from limb to limb down to the ground.

Package received

As we circled back, I was able to snap a photo of Admiral Crea waving as she held the package aloft. Evan's piloting skills and Santa's aim had been a success. We were later informed by the Admiral that our package had come through with flying colors and that she and her husband had waited until Christmas Day to open it. For all of us involved that day, it was a great thrill to relive the excitement of a successful package drop just as the Wincapaws and Snows enjoyed during their flights so many years before

Notes of Thanks


Once again, all of us at Friends of Flying Santa are indebted to the dedicated pilots who continue to donate their services and aircraft for our annual Santa flights. Art Godjikian and LaRay Todd were our New Hampshire and Maine pilots, Evan Wile was our Massachusetts pilot and Glenn Hanson and Lou Belloisy were our Rhode Island to New York pilots. Without the involvement of these generous individuals, carrying out this tradition would be an almost insurmountable challenge. We offer our sincere thanks to these gentlemen for their part in brightening the holidays of Coast Guard families throughout New England.

2003 marked the second year of participation by the Specialty Coffee Association of America - Their contributions of specialty coffees from all over the country were enjoyed by all our stops. Thanks to all of you who contributed.

Special thanks go to Webster Bull of Commonwealth Editions - - for donating copies of the recently republished Edward Rowe Snow volume Storms and Shipwrecks of New England. The inclusion of these books in our gift boxes continues the tradition started by Mr. Snow when he would include copies of these same books in the hundreds of packages that he delivered on his Yuletide missions.

Scholarship Program


This spring, Friends of Flying Santa will be awarding our first scholarships to college-bound children of Massachusetts based members of the USCG. We look forward to this new element of the Flying Santa tradition and expanding our efforts of appreciation to the families of the USCG. In the future, we hope to expand this scholarship program to include all of New England. Members of the CG stationed in Massachusetts may contact us by phone or email for more information on the application process.


2004 Fundraising Events


We are happy to be offering our third lighthouse bus tour to the state of Maine. This three-day tour will visit 12 of Maine's most famous lighthouses. We have chartered a luxury tour bus with all the amenities, including a restroom, comfortable wide seating, heat & air conditioning, and a VCR & TV monitors for the viewing of lighthouse and Flying Santa videos. Accommodations have been made at the Trade Winds Motor Inn on the Rockland waterfront. Your lodgings for the two nights as well as buffet breakfasts are included. Lunch stops will be scheduled along the way. Dinner is available at the motor inn or nearby restaurants. Lunch and dinner are not included in the tour price. Our narrator for the tour will be lighthouse historian and author, Jeremy D'Entremont -

The tour will depart from the Rockland, Massachusetts Park & Ride Lot at 7:00 AM on Friday, May 21 and will return on Sunday evening, May 23. There is secure, free parking at this site.



Portsmouth Harbor Light
Maine Maritime Museum
Lighthouse Cruise from Bath (6 lights - Doubling Point, Kennebec Range Lights, Squirrel Point, Perkins Island, Pond Island and Seguin Island)
Rockland Breakwater Light (Optional - 2 mile walk)

Fort Point Light
Bar Harbor-Acadia National Park
Summit of Cadillac Mountain
Bass Harbor Head light

Owl's Head Light
Pemaquid Point Light
Lighthouse Depot
Nubble Light

Schedule subject to change


The cost is $325.00 per person double occupancy and seating is limited to 50 people. Tickets are available by paid advance reservations only.

Click here for ticket ordering info


1-Day Lighthouses of Rhode Island Bus Tour - July 24, 2004

Our next outing will be in July with a one-day bus tour of Rhode Island lighthouses. Included in this trip will be visits to Castle Hill Light, Beavertail Light, Point Judith Light and Warwick Light.

Our narrator for the tour will be lighthouse historian and author, Jeremy D'Entremont. The cost is $45.00 per person and seating is limited to 50 people. Tickets are available by paid advance reservations only.

Click here for ticket ordering info


3-Day Lighthouses of Connecticut Bus Tour - October 2004

Preliminary planning is also in the works for a 3-day fall bus tour to lighthouses and other attractions in Connecticut. We hope to include visits to Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium as well as a number of lighthouses. We will be announcing further details regarding this tour through our website and June newsletter. Feel free to contact us by phone or email for more information.

Ideas for additional fundraising events are in the works. We will keep you posted with additional details in the coming months. Be sure to check our newsletter and website for more information and feel free to contact us if you have any questions about our upcoming tours.

Gift Items
We would like to take this opportunity to remind our friends that Friends of Flying Santa offers a fine selection of apparel sporting the Friends logo. Our hats, sweatshirts, polo shirts and T-shirts are available in most popular sizes. If you would like to order one or more of these items for yourself or a friend, please check out our Gift Items page.



Over the past few years, Friends of Flying Santa and Yankee Magazine have joined together in a unique partnership. Through their very popular Community Partnership program, we have been able to offer our friends subscriptions to the magazine at the discounted rate of $20 per year. Their regular rate is $24 per year. With each subscription order placed through the Friends, Yankee donates $8 to the Friends of Flying Santa. If you are interested in receiving or renewing Yankee Magazine please follow the link below. This also makes a great gift for your friends or family. Thanks for your support.

Yankee Magazine's Commmunity Partners


Letter from Board of Trustees concerning George Morgan


Newsletter Archives

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per year.
Brian Tague
Jeremy D'Entremont
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Stoneham, MA 02180-0001
Tel: (781) 438-4587