364 days of the year  Bevers is a real estate investor. But on Christmas Eve he trades in his pin-stripe suit for a fuzzy red one

Every Christmas Eve for the past 10 years, Joe Bevers has suited up as Santa and paid a visit to some of his neighbors on Tokalon.

For him, it’s a family tradition.

“My uncle did it, my dad did it, and my son dresses as an elf and goes with me,” Bevers says. “He wants to be Santa — he doesn’t like his elf suit — but I told him he’s an understudy and has to wait.”

Did we mention that Bever’s son is 30 years old?

But for the Bevers, holiday spirit has no age limit.

“We’re big on Christmas,” Bevers says, explaining that in addition to his Santa duties, he and wife Gail make sure their house has plenty of yuletide decorations.

The typical Christmas Eve scene goes something like this: Bevers, in full Santa regalia, scratches on the window to get the attention of any kids in the house (most of his neighbors are expecting him). He tells the kids his sleigh hit a tree (he stuffs some branches in his bag for authenticity), that Rudolph hurt his foot but will be OK, and then tells them a story about the reindeer. All the while, Bevers’ son, Joseph III, is dressed as an elf jingling bells.

“The kids love it. They think it’s the real deal,” Joseph says.

The Santa-elf duo visit 20-25 houses each year, mostly in their Lakewood neighborhood, but they also swing by several neighborhoods near Fair Park.

For the elder Bevers, it’s really about bringing his neighborhood closer together.

“It’s the spirit,” he says. “It’s great for new neighbors — they get to meet me.”

But some of the new neighbors may not be prepared for what they find. Says Bevers, laughing: “It’s kind of a shock. They probably think, ‘Who the hell is this guy in the Santa suit?’”

One neighbor who quickly got over any such notion is Ralphana Barnes. Bevers says when he contacted Barnes about surprising her family Christmas Eve, she asked him to stop by her sister’s house, where her family always gathers.

“He came to my sister’s Swiss Avenue home after our family had finished dinner — peered through the front window so all the kids could see him first and came in with a bound to the delighted screams of the entire family,” Barnes says.

“Beautifully attired, he held kids on his laps, shook hands with the older children, and gave the adult women a rosy kiss,” says Barnes, describing the evening.

But Bevers remembers something else about that night, something that makes it one of his most rewarding experiences.

“I went over there and there was this one little girl who looked kind of scared. But when I got ready to go, she ran out and cried for me not to leave,” he says. Family members told Bevers the girl, then-three-year-old Katey Risinger, was very reserved and never spoke out like that.

“She begged him to come back. So he came back in, and Katey crawled on his lap. We were all crying with excitement.”

Bevers says seeing Katey and the family respond in that way — that’s why he has continued the Santa gig for so long and has no plans to stop.

“It’s really fulfilling.”

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