Forrest General’s Santa, Snowman Take Their Place on Top of Building
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – (December 2, 2020) For the past 40 years, jolly St. Nick and his companion, Frosty the Snowman, have adorned the front of Forrest General Hospital providing comfort and joy to hospital patients, their families, staff and passersby. On Tuesday, with a little Christmas magic and some help from Engineering, the two took their rightful spot once again up on the rooftop.
First placed on the roof of the main lobby in 1980, these two holiday sidekicks have become a favorite holiday tradition for Hattiesburg and the surrounding communities served by the hospital. Many residents recall driving past the hospital during their younger years with their parents or grandparents to catch a glimpse of the two.
Lowrey Woodall, who served as executive director of the hospital from 1962 until his retirement in 1996, had the two Christmas icons placed out front. His daughter, Linda Carol Woodall, a resident of Petal, said the idea for the Santa and Snowman came from the employees who were working at Forrest General at the time. "Daddy said he would have preferred a nativity scene, but he went with the majority of the employees at the time," Woodall said. "Hilda East, an interior decorator who did a lot of the commercial interior design at the hospital during all the expansions which took place during Daddy’s tenure, purchased Santa and the Snowman for the hospital. Daddy and Mama always took us to see them after they were placed on the hospital for display."
Each year the duo are brought out of storage, inspected, all the bulbs checked, and the two are fluffed-up to make sure they are ready for their public debut. It takes a crane to get Snowman and Santa in place for the holidays, and an engineering team to securely affix them to the rooftop. Each stands about 12 feet tall and are quite heavy.
This year, there will be one major change. “I made each of them their very own masks due to the pandemic,” said Terry Lynn Warden, planner/designer for Operational Support: Project Management. “They are doing their part by social distancing and wearing their mask, because we are all in this together.”
Several years ago when Santa needed a new belt, a company could have made him one, but the department decided to make it themselves, according to Warden. The Forrest General Engineering department rewraps the decorations with large garland every few years to keep them shining bright. “We truly care about these decorations and invest time in them because of what a staple they are to our community,” Warden said.
“We hear so many stories about people driving by to see our characters, and we’re honored that our traditions have become a part of so many Pine Belt families’ holiday traditions,” said Forrest Health Vice President Millie Swan.
The beloved characters have only had to be replaced once in 40 years after the originals were destroyed by heavy winds.
Tradition is part of what makes the holiday season special, and these Christmas traditions have become a holiday classic to long-time residents of the Pine Belt.