A very Gary Ransdell Christmas

Katherine Wade

President Gary Ransdell believes in Santa Claus.

“You know, Santa Claus and Big Red are a lot alike,” Ransdell said. “They can both be many places at the same time. There’s a lot of magic there.”

Ransdell said the spirit of Santa Claus and all the traditions surrounding Christmas are what give the holiday the magic, especially for children.

“You gotta believe in miracles and tradition and things that fascinate children of all ages,” he said. “The spirit of Santa Claus is very real, and you would be doing yourself a disservice not to believe in that spirit.”

Ransdell said he doesn’t go into Christmas with one specific thing he wants in mind.

“Julie and I often get each other things that are creative, like a piece of art for our home or the yard…that we can enjoy forever and can be passed down to our sons,” he said.

Last year, Ransdell said Julie gave him a “beautiful” carved and painted owl.

Ransdell said he already knows what he is getting his wife this year.

“I’m getting her something that she will enjoy and that will be quite utilitarian, but she wants it,” he said.

Christmas at the Ransdell’s has traditionally involved a fire in the fireplace, lots of Christmas decorations, a Christmas tree, a turkey dinner and homemade cinnamon rolls.

“Those traditions are changing because our boys are 28 and 32,” he said. “In the past we’ve always enjoyed having them with us, but our grandson is 3-and-a-half-years-old so it’s time for him to start having Christmas at his home, which is in North Carolina.”

This year, the Ransdells are going to Destin, Fla., to spend time with Julie’s mother.

“We are very traditional,” Ransdell said. “This will be the first Christmas in 39 years of marriage that we haven’t had all the traditional things on Christmas morning.”

Ransdell said their traditions are evolving, but they will keep some of them alive even in a different environment.

“They have turkeys in Florida too!” he said. “There won’t be a fireplace and it won’t be cold, but we’ll still do all the traditional food things.”

They are also planning on decorating a Christmas tree with seashells and beach things.

A couple of Christmases stand out in Ransdell’s memory.

Ransdell and his wife, Julie, got married on Dec. 30, 1972 when they were both seniors at WKU.

“That Christmas was pretty magical with all that was going on with getting married in a few days, and all our friends coming up to Louisville for the wedding,” he said. “That would probably be the most special.”

Another of his favorite Christmas memories comes from when their boys were young.

“Julie and I have always had dogs, and the dog we had when we were married, right after we got married, had died, so we got the boys a puppy,” he said. “A Dalmatian, a Christmas Dalmatian. And it was quite a chore making that a Christmas morning surprise. That was pretty special.”