The family of a father who made Christmas come true for “hundreds of kids” with his very own Santa’s grotto have described their heartache after his sudden death.
Kevin Hubery, of Hawthorn in County Durham, was known to children and families right across the North East as the “real Santa” after setting up his very own grotto, last year.
Spreading joy in a bid to raise vital cash for charity, the 58-year-old father-of-two and devoted husband had become a local legend among people far and wide.
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But, husband to Susan, 58, father to Danielle, 26, Emma, 32, and father-in-law to Lee, 33, Kevin sadly died while waiting to go on a family holiday at Newcastle Airport on September 17.
‘He was so loving’
Last night, his heartbroken family paid tribute to a “fun-loving” man who had “more love than sense” and would be sorely missed by everyone.
Speaking to The Northern Echo, Kevin’s devastated daughter Danielle – who is 22 weeks pregnant with his first grandson – said that he had “created many memories” for families.
She said: “He was just the most amazing, fun-loving character out there. He was everything everyone would be lucky to have and he was just the most amazing man. He was so loving.
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“He would go out of the way to talk to everybody, if he would see a dog he would run down to see it. He would make them laugh.”
A former children’s entertainer, Kevin last year took the decision to transform his home into a winter wonderland, creating the grotto with the help of son-in-law, Lee.
‘The real Santa’
Complete with fairy lights, music, tinsel – and even alpacas, the grotto became a huge success with people traveling from far and wide, with profits going to charity.
Danielle said: “He was known as the real Santa to so many children, we had people coming from as far as Darlington and Stockton.
“I’ll never forget the time one kid said ‘Santa’s not real’ – but we would find out everything we needed and what Santa would know – and that 13-year-old came out saying ‘I’ve just met the real Santa .
“We have created so many memories.”
Explaining that Kevin also wanted to give children across the North East something to look forward to after Covid lockdown, Danielle said: “He said ‘this is not right, there’s a lot of children who don’t understand what is going on’ and he came up with the idea.
“I put up a post (on social media) at 6pm on Thursday and by 7am the next day there were 30 bookings.
‘We created so many memories’
“It was a massive team effort, we had seen hundreds of kids and by the end raised £2,801.60p for the neonatal unit in Sunderland.
“He was so, so proud – we created so many memories.”
Before becoming a children’s entertainer, Kevin had worked in logistics and also Seaham Hall before retiring for a life to spend with his wife and children.
And a big part of his enjoyment was in the sun, often spending his time on cruise ships or at holiday destinations around the world.
But on the day of his death, Kevin had been due to go to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands with around 22 friends and family, with some also flying from Manchester.
Danielle said: “He loved his holidays, him and my mom would do three to four cruises a year, he loved Vegas, he loved the Far East and he loved America and he loved traveling.
“He wanted to see the world, god love him, he did his hardest. He wasn’t ready yet, there were so many places he wanted to go.”
‘My dad was Santa’
Since his death, the whole family has been left shocked and devastated, but have vowed to remember him in as many ways as they can.
Danielle and Lee have said they will name their baby son, Harry Kevin Alexander in his memory.
Meanwhile, their new son will carry the nickname “smudge,” after Kevin quipped that the first ever scan of their child was indeed smudged.
The family also added that while Santa’s Grotto Hawthorn would no longer continue, the family is planning to display their Christmas lights on their home as a further tribute.
Danielle added: “My dad was Santa and it will never be the same. It’s not fair to have someone else in his shoes.
“It was him, that was him and we don’t want to take that away from him – it wouldn’t be right.
“Come the middle of November, we are going to put Christmas lights back out in his memory.”
Kevin’s funeral will take place at 11.30am on October 3, 2022 at Durham Crematorium and all who knew him are invited to attend.
The family has said those attending can wear whatever they feel comfortable with and do not have to wear black, if they do not wish to.
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