- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) - When rain started to fall on the Greensburg Holiday Parade Nov. 19, Vickie Rowe urged her mother, Jean Rowe, to ride down the parade route inside a truck instead of her usual exposed carriage.

Jean Rowe refused.

After all, Santa Claus would be in the carriage, and it would not do well for him to be without Mrs. Claus.

“Santa Claus will not go down the street without me,” she said.

Rowe, of Greensburg, has played Mrs. Claus for more than 30 years. She rides in the annual holiday parade, visits Christmas parties and reads to school children.

“I love doing this,” Rowe said.

Few people in Greensburg embody the Christmas spirit like Jean Rowe. Every December, her home is filled with more than 160 nutcrackers she’s collected over the years, and that’s not counting the host of other figurines and ornaments that adorn her living room.

She sewed the white trim on her Mrs. Claus costume herself. And she can’t stand a Scrooge.

“When people say they don’t like Christmas, it takes all the spirit out of living,” she said.

Her love of the holiday stems back to her childhood in Norvelt, where she grew up with four sisters.

She has lived in Greensburg since 1952, when she married firefighter W. Wayne Rowe.

He died in 2011.

Jean Rowe is a die-hard Greensburger. She spent many years as a cafeteria worker for Greensburg Salem School District. She still attends all Golden Lions home games and thinks the Steelers could learn a thing or two from the high school team.

She has three children - Arizona resident Wayne Rowe and Greensburg residents Vickie Rowe and Barbara Vernail.

When her daughter Vickie told her about the holiday parade more than 30 years ago, she volunteered right away.

“You can’t have a Santa Claus parade without Mrs. Claus,” she said.

Rowe jokingly calls Clyde Snyder, who portrays Santa, her “other husband.”

“She looks like Mrs. Claus. She fits the part. And her demeanor, she’s a kind, very caring kind of person,” Snyder said.

The pair have been riding down Main Street Greensburg together every year for as long as Snyder can remember.

“It’s more than just the kids, especially at the holiday parade. That’s the one day that everybody believes in Santa Claus. It’s just a good feeling to see everyone so happy,” he said.

One year, when Snyder was out of town, W. Wayne Rowe filled in as Santa, but he wasn’t the ideal Saint Nick, according to his wife.

“His beard kept moving,” she said.

Rowe visits elementary schools every year, dressed as Mrs. Claus, to read to students and answer their questions about life at the North Pole.

“They always want to know, ‘How’s Rudolph?’” she said. “Their eyes get as big as saucers.”

After spinning stories about Santa’s castle, his workshop and the elves who care for the reindeer, she always gives the same piece of advice for Christmas Eve.

“Make sure you go to bed early, and in the morning, get up early,” she said.

Once someone complimented her on a great Mrs. Claus wig, and she informed him her white locks are hard-earned and all-natural.

“Everybody tells me she’s the real thing. She’s the real deal,” Vickie Rowe said.

Jean Rowe plans to wake up early Christmas morning and spend the day with her daughters.

“I don’t believe in anyone staying in bed late on Christmas Day,” she said.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2hF7VQx

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Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, https://pghtrib.com

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