My elder brother was a little eccentric. As a grown man he collected teddy bears. I don't know why. Perhaps it was because he didn't have any children of his own to give them to, or he just liked the looks of them in his home. Before he died, he had well over 50 bears in all sizes and colors, not to mention how many he had given away.

Perhaps it had something to do with a failed high school romance that broke his heart. Although he had dated many beautiful women during his prime years, he never married.

He worked 30 years for New Holland Machinery and as a result, enjoyed his down time with relish. He was a member of the Kansas City Playboy Club and spent many of his vacations in Las Vegas or Hawaii. He always drove a Pontiac convertible and wore expensive clothes. One could say he was something of a playboy when he wasn't working.

On his travels he often bought unique items to decorate his home, including teddy bears. By the time he retired, he had to get rid of some of them. Instead of donating a lot of them at one time to a hospital or orphanage, he

chose to give them away one at a time to children who looked like they needed a lift that day. He said the look on their faces at an unexpected gift was priceless. Over time, people in the community dubbed him "Bear Claus" and the name stuck.

As he often told me, "Gilbert, you don't know everything." He was right about that and many other things. I can't count the number of times l've needed his advice since he passed away. He's probably staked out a space just inside St. Peter's Gate to distribute teddy bears to the new arrivals who need a little lift before they realize they've reached Heaven.

Now that l’m retired and on a very limited budget, l've become a thrift shopper to the max. And l've discovered that I also have a surplus of teddy bears of many sizes and colors. Recently, I have started giving them away to various

children who look like they need a little lift — with their parents' permission of course. Yet again, my brother was so right. The looks on their faces at an unexpected gift is truly priceless … and it makes me feel good.

 

Dennis J. Smith, of Winfield, is retired from a long career in teaching, mostly in China.

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