Kentucky man who plays Santa Claus loses beard amid terminal cancer fight: ‘In good spirits’

Queen, 78, – known as Santa Walt – has been playing Santa Claus for the last 15 years in the Louisville, Kentucky, area. His jolly face and long white beard have made him one of the best-known Santas in the area. 

However, Queen recently shaved off his beard amid his fight with stage 4 cancer.

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Queen said that at the end of last year, he was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that can start in the muscle, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons or lining of joints, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

By the time doctors caught the cancer in Queen, it had spread throughout his body, Queen said.

Queen underwent two rounds of chemotherapy that put him in “such bad shape” that he had to spend four days in intensive care, Queen told Fox News Digital. 

Walt Queen, 78, has been playing Santa Claus for the last 15 years in the Louisville, Kentucky, area. 

Walt Queen, 78, has been playing Santa Claus for the last 15 years in the Louisville, Kentucky, area.  (Courtesy of Katie Lacer/MommaKT Shoots and Megan Tindle/MDT Photography LLC)

Thankfully, Queen said he’s been feeling much better.

“I’m in good spirits and I’m just physically strong and ready to deal with this thing, whether it can be destroyed or whether I just go into remission, I’m prepared for either one of those,” Queen told Fox News Digital on Monday.

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Since the side effects of chemo caused Queen’s beard to start falling out in clumps, he decided to have it shaved off on Jan. 18. Before that, he had his beard for at least 45 years, if not longer, Queen told Fox.

Queen said he had already anticipated shaving the beard to “make a clean break” and to avoid walking around with “something scraggly.”

In December, Queen was diagnosed with stage 4 soft tissue sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. 

In December, Queen was diagnosed with stage 4 soft tissue sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.  (Courtesy of Adwell Photography)

After undergoing two rounds of chemotherapy, Queen’s beard started to fall out, so he shaved it all off on Jan. 18. 

After undergoing two rounds of chemotherapy, Queen’s beard started to fall out, so he shaved it all off on Jan. 18.  (Courtesy of Adwell Photography)

"We thought it would be easier on my grandkids, too, if we did that," Queen told Fox News Digital. "They thought it was really funny to see me without a beard."

“We thought it would be easier on my grandkids, too, if we did that,” Queen told Fox News Digital. “They thought it was really funny to see me without a beard.” (Courtesy of Adwell Photography)

“We thought it would be easier on my grandkids, too, if we did that,” Queen said. “They thought it was really funny to see me without a beard.”

Because he had already expected to lose the beard, Queen said it wasn’t too difficult to have it shaved off.

“My wife really summed it up well,” Queen said. “She said, ‘Man sees your beard, God sees your heart.’ And because of that, I was at peace about it. It really was not a big deal because I knew that that was going to happen when I had the chemotherapy, so I was prepared for it emotionally.”

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During his cancer fight, Queen said he has relied on his faith – something he had to rely on in August 1989, when two of his daughters were killed in a car crash.

“It was at that point I had to make a decision, would I go on and continue to live a life of faith and live a life filled with hope and the joy of the Lord, or just give up,” Queen said. “I chose the life of faith and hope and joy.”

Though the chemotherapy was hard on Queen, he told Fox News Digital that he’s feeling "extremely strong" and "ready to deal with this thing."

Though the chemotherapy was hard on Queen, he told Fox News Digital that he’s feeling “extremely strong” and “ready to deal with this thing.” (Courtesy of Adwell Photography)

Queen has continued to make that choice, even now.

“I feel a strong calling for my life to talk to other people about hope,” Queen said. “To just share with them that there is a hope, there’s an eternal hope. It’s there, and it’s available to you.”

“That’s what drives me, that’s what keeps me going day by day,” he added. “Keeping my head up, keeping my spirits up. And regardless of the outcome of my cancer, I’m prepared for whatever comes down the pike.”

 

Before he became Santa, Queen said he “had no intention” of donning the red suit and hat at Christmastime, even though he had a white beard. That changed when a friend approached him about 15 years ago asking Queen to deliver a puppy to his daughter. 

Queen objected at first and said he didn’t have the costume, but his friend bought him one and “goaded” Queen to delivering the puppy. 

Queen said he still remembers driving to his friend’s house and knocking on the front door, which was answered by his friend’s daughter. 

“When she saw me, it was magical,” Queen said. “The look in her eye when she saw me and saw that puppy, it was just more than I could handle emotionally.”

After his visit, Queen said he called his wife in the car on the way home. 

“I said, ‘Well, I’ve got a new career. I’m going to be a Santa Claus,’” Queen said.

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Whitney Kamann, Queen’s business manager and close friend, told Fox News Digital that it’s been tough seeing Queen’s struggle with cancer.

“He’s kind of like the grandfather that I never had,” Kamann said. “As with any family member or close friend that you watch go through something, it’s very, very difficult. Our hearts and our love is with him all the time. But Walt and I talk a lot and we are staying positive and optimistic. We are planning for the future every chance that we get.”

Whitney Kamann (pictured with Queen), Queen’s business manager and close friend set up a GoFundMe, called "Elf Whitney’s fundraiser for Santa Walt," to help Queen with his medical bills.

Whitney Kamann (pictured with Queen), Queen’s business manager and close friend set up a GoFundMe, called “Elf Whitney’s fundraiser for Santa Walt,” to help Queen with his medical bills. (Courtesy of Whitney Kamann)

Kamann set up a GoFundMe titled, “Elf Whitney’s fundraiser for Santa Walt,” to help Queen with his medical bills, particularly to make sure his wife Barbara isn’t left in debt if Queen dies.

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Queen said that although it’s been a long journey, now that he’s off chemo and on a new medication, his beard has already started to grow back. 

“Who knows,” he said. “I could have a beard – I’m sure it won’t be as long as it was before we shaved it off – but I could have a beard long enough to…do some Santa visits.”

“As long as I’m physically able, it is my intention to continue to spread the joy of Christmas to the kids,” he added. 

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