31 years spreading Christmas cheer

by By Michelle Dillon Staff Writer

Cherokee County Precinct 1 Constable Lynn Kelley will be a part of his 31st Rusk Christmas parade this year.

Kelley recalled his first ever appearance in the Rusk parade in his highway patrol car. He was on regular duty and driving through town when he realized the parade was taking place. He simply put his car in line, turned on his lights and thought, “This is pretty darn cool.”

He continues to participate in the parade because “it is small town America come true.”

His favorite part of being in the parade, he admits, is the little children and hearing comments made about him as he proceeds through the parade route.

“It makes you feel good that you’re recognized in the community,” Kelley stated. “It’s a positive experience that represents the season.”

“I swell with pride,” he stated about the feeling he gets being a participant. “I’m from Rusk. I grew up in Rusk. I graduated Rusk High School in 1971. Now I live in Jacksonville, but you always come home.”

Kelley also retold a story about a time in the early 1990s when he got to save the parade.

As he tells it, the woman who was supposed to pick up Santa and deliver him to the fire truck had so much on her mind she forgot to pick up Santa.

“She came running to my car saying, ‘You won’t believe what happened…can you go get him?’” Kelley recalled.

Santa was at the chamber of commerce office and was taking off his suit when Kelley arrived.

When Kelley told Santa he had a parade, Santa said he didn’t have a way to get there.

“That’s why I’m here,” Kelley replied.

Santa quickly redressed and the two folded themselves into the mustang Kelley was driving.

The pair made their way back through the crowd waving and running the siren until Santa had been delivered to the fire truck. Kelley then maneuvered his vehicle back into line and the parade commenced.

Though he has served a lifetime in law enforcement, it is doubtful he knew that ‘saving Santa’ would be among his duties.

Kelley has served as constable since 2005 and over 30 years as a state trooper.