Wayne Harris, 89, passed away peacefully on June 3, 2018. He will be remembered by many in the Paso area as the City’s downtown Santa Claus for nearly 30 years — bouncing children on his knee, and then a generation later their children. He was active on the local scene as a contributor and docent at the Pioneer Museum. One of the thrills of his life was to serve as Grand Marshal in the 2008 Pioneer Day parade. Another grand adventure was riding to Canada on the back of son Troy’s motorcycle. In later years he hired himself out as a storyteller, giving guided tours of the Bryson-Hesperia region.
Wayne spent his early career as a youth pastor, first serving at the Paso Robles First Baptist Church after graduating from Biola University in Los Angeles. Mid-career he switched to computer programming and support. His last decades before retiring at age 65 from the City of Paso Robles were in the maintenance field, augmented by handy-man projects with his state contractor’s license. He was a California resident all his life, and his jobs included time living in Glendora, Lancaster, Merced, Fort Seward (Humboldt County), Mount Hermon (near Santa Cruz), Redding, Cupertino, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Ojai before settling back in Paso in 1977.
The son of Ray and Myrtle Harris, both deceased, Wayne was the last of their six children to pass (following brothers Glenn, Forrest, Cliff and Dale; and sister Dorothy). He is survived by his children, Troy, Tina, and Keith, and grandchildren: Jessica, Kimberlee, Jeremy, Brandi, Kristen, and Austin, plus great grands: Brenden, Fiona, Jagger, Dashiel, Jonathan, Juliana, and Justin. Wayne was laid to rest in the coffin he built for himself (in collaboration with nephew Gene Bilyeu; used as a bookcase for 15 years) next to his father, his father’s father, and his father’s father’s father at Pleyto Cemetery off Interlake Rd in southern Monterey County. His headstone reads, “Considered the ‘Last of the Pioneers’ because he lived during the time when his home had no running water. It had to be brought a half-mile in an old wooden barrel drawn by a team of horses on an old wooden sled. Also, there was no such thing as electricity, so all lights were kerosene lamps or lanterns. The nearest electricity was 20 miles away.”
The community is invited to join the family at his Birthday Party and Farewell, including potluck lunch, at Hesperia Hall (see hesperiahall.org for directions) on Wed. June 27, 2018, at 11 a.m.—which would have been Wayne’s 90th. RSVP by Monday, June 25 to “FarewellWayne90@gmail.com” to help ensure ample seating, eating ware and cake.
Donations can be made in his name to the Scholarship Fund at Hesperia Hall (contact email@example.com for details). More info about Wayne can be found at a tribute site for (quoting the Hesperia Hall site) “our favorite Hesperia Hall historian Wayne Harris in celebration of his 75th birthday. His son Troy has established the site and it is informative and fun, so take the tour to learn some local history in honor of one of our heroes!”: http://www.faithful.name/hesperia/
Photo Caption : Wayne Harris, who was the Santa for Paso Robles for decades, passed away on June 3. He was remembered lovingly by many families. Many wondered if his beard was real, and yes, it was. Harris is pictured with two of his great grands.