Santa’s Number One Elf dies in his arms

By Faye Higbee

Eric Schmitt-Matzen, 60, is an Army Ranger veteran who plays Santa Claus during the holiday season. He even has a jungle bells ringtone on his phone. This year, he visited a hospital where a 5 year old child was dying, and granted him a last wish. Then the child, whom Eric dubbed Santa’s “number one elf,” died in his arms.

He is a mechanical engineer and president of Packing Seals and Engineering in Jacksboro, Tennessee by trade.

“I’ve seen my share of [stuff]. But I ran by the nurses’ station bawling my head off. I know nurses and doctors see things like that every day, but I don’t know how they can take it.” Eric Schmitt-Matzen

Eric is tall, round, and sports a lovely white Santa beard. When a nurse from the hospital called him and told him a little boy wanted to see Santa, he got ready to change into his outfit. She told him there wasn’t time, that his suspenders would do. He got there in 15 minutes and spoke to the boy’s mother, who had purchased a special gift for her son.

Santa helps a new angel go Home

USA Today reported,


“When I walked in, he was laying there, so weak it looked like he was ready to fall asleep. I sat down on his bed and asked, ‘Say, what’s this I hear about you’re gonna miss Christmas? There’s no way you can miss Christmas! Why, you’re my Number One elf!

“He looked up and said, ‘I am?’

“I said, ‘Sure!’

“I gave him the present. He was so weak he could barely open the wrapping paper. When he saw what was inside, he flashed a big smile and laid his head back down.

‘“They say I’m gonna die,’ he told me. ‘How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?’

“I said, ‘Can you do me a big favor?’

“He said, ‘Sure!’

“When you get there, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.

“He said, ‘They will?’

“I said, ‘Sure!’

“He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: ‘Santa, can you help me?’

“I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.

Eric said he cried all the way home, and it took him three days to recover and a couple of weeks to get his head back on straight.

He was ready to hang up his Santa suit forever, but managed to do one more show.

“When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play… For them and for me.”

Like a marshmallow burned in the fire, the outside may be crusty, but the inside is tender. Yes, Eric Schmitt-Matzen really has “seen stuff.”