Update: Mountain Santa family makes public statement
Early Saturday morning Mike Howard, also known as "Mountain Santa", died at his home on Santa Lane in the Wallins community of Harlan County.
For 41 years "Mountain Santa" handed out gifts to
, however, this past year cancer made him too weak to continue with year 42.
"It's been humbling to be able to pick-up where he can't this year, it's also sad because it's not the same there's a void," said April Galloway, Mike Howard's daughter. "I said, Dad, I said this is what you raised us to do, this is all we know, don't have to have anything under that tree for me, this is it."
In 2015, Howard talked to
about preparing all year long for his Christmas delivery. "I used to just do it on Christmas Eve and it just got so big. The more I prayed the bigger it got it seemed like," said Howard. "It still amazes me how, how the Lord can do things, he's the one that does it all, all I do with it is get out and do it."
Wallins Elementary School Principal, Stan Nicely said there is a gap now in Harlan County after Howard's death due to the amount of kindness he shared throughout the community.
"That doesn't come naturally, it came from God and because he had a love for God like he did, he had a love for people," Stan Nicely, Principal, Wallins Elementary School said.
Mike Howard was awarded the
Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities Volunteer of the Year award. Howard also won the 2017 National Volunteer of the Year award through the American Health Care Association.
"If I have met an angel on earth, it was Mike Howard," said Gail Hensley, Administrator, Harlan Health and Rehabilitation Center said. "If anybody is in Heaven and has their wings, it's him."
Funeral arrangements for Howard are being handled by the Anderson-Laws and Jones Funeral Home. His visitation will be Tuesday from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Harlan Center. The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday also at the Harlan Center. He will be buried in the Park-Howard Cemetery in Wallins.
Willie Galloway, Howard's son-in-law, shared this statement on behalf of the family.