After a career in "the other world," Erik and Frances Listou found their calling in the mid-1990s through the Rockland Church where Erik was first invited to portray Santa Claus in 1993; Frances just naturally made it a twosome a year or two later.
As Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity for the Metro Denver Area at the time, Erik did not have any facial hair, and the hair on his head was a brilliant red – not quite the image one has of Santa. But someone at Rockland could see the spirit of one perfect Santa within this slight man (his build didn't even fit the mold), whose bespectacled, twinkling eyes looked deep into the core of each subject before him and spoke softly in such a trustworthy, comforting way.
"Once you've seen Christmas through the eyes of Santa, then you want to continue," he said in describing his subsequent career as Santa.
Since then he's grown a full-length beard, tried many products to make red hair turn white, and even consulted with the head of makeup at MGM Studios about how to make it look naturally white before turning legally gray.
With the artistry of an acclaimed seamstress, Frances designed and produced authentic costumes for both Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Costuming aside, it is the sincerity of Erik and Frances that makes them the most convincing Santa and Mrs. Claus this side of the North Pole. Along with the prerequisite inquiries about homework and housekeeping and paying attention to parents, Santa looks deep into the eyes of each child on his lap to hear what it is he or she wants for Christmas. When siblings squabble in front of him, he softly asks them to stop, look into each other's eyes and say "I'm sorry - I love you." He's learned over the years how powerful this can be, as some of these children have passed through his life in later years saying they've kept up that custom when overcoming differences with a sibling.
He thanks them for the cookies and milk and always has quick answers to the most unexpected questions before promising them something very special for Christmas. The Listous have a following. Some parents say they avoid taking their children to malls where they might see other impersonators; seeing this Santa and Mrs. Claus has become part of a family experience, they explain.
Some of the newborns who've been cradled in the arms of a loving Mrs. Santa, graduated to Santa's knee, and somewhere between Kindergarten and being a freshman at college learned the facts about this holiday tradition gleefully greet the Listous whenever they see them in a store, restaurant, or at church. (In fact, during this interview, three sets of teenagers stopped to say hello at the Starbucks in King Soopers.)
Mrs. Claus has her own following. She's the one who straightens their dresses and teaches them to cross their legs at the ankle like ladies and hold the hand of Mrs. Claus for the holiday portrait. Sometimes girls returning from college will laughingly repeat "cross your ankles!" when they see her.
Santa and Mrs. Claus have kept every card and letter from the little ones who often stand in line for extended periods to share their wishes each Christmas season. And they've eaten every cookie given to them. (Santa always diets after Christmas.)
"Santa is the first person outside the immediate family a child is encouraged to love and go to beyond their immediate comfort zone," Erik explains, "to embrace and love, being rewarded with happiness and love."
This Christmas season they've been invited to make an appearance in costume at Copper Mountain, which is, ironically, where they met in 1990 in that "other life" that has also been notable.
Erik identifies his off-season work as being a musician, playing percussion and harmonica. His "No One Man Band" has played in synagogues and other venues for the past 10 years, sometimes with national talent.
He was the owner of Top Quality Remodeling for 15 years and was twice named Colorado Remodeler of the Year. He had a radio show on KHOW for 2 1/2 years, self-funded as a community service. The show, called "Build Responsible," was designed to improve awareness of professional building processes to those in the remodeling industry. He is often seen at home remodeling shows providing an educational element. In 2011 he was named Educator of the Year by the National Association of Home Builders for his work with "Aging in Place" issues.
Frances, who hails from Pennsylvania, moved to Evergreen in 1978 and has served Evergreen in the area of electrolysis under the business name A Wild Hair since 1981. She serves on the boards of state and international associations for electrology, is a Certified Professional Electrologist (CPE), and is recognized internationally in the field.
In addition, she is an award-winning sculptor with stone, clay, and bronze; her artistry includes pen and ink drawings. She has been a member of the Evergreen Artists Association since 1978 and a board member of that organization for 10 years.