Torrington Santa says ‘Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight’ one last time
Community rallies behind Dennis Grubbs with car parade to honor his community spirit
TORRINGTON – Torrington’s long-serving Santa Claus, Dennis Grubbs, was honored in a car show and parade over the weekend as a salute to his service to the community as his battle with pancreatic cancer draws to an end.
Dennis Grubbs has served as Torrington’s Santa since 1997 until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Not only has Grubbs put on the infamous red suit, black buckle and boots every year for Christmas, he has also embodied the spirit of Santa in the community with his local bike shop, military service and work with the city of Torrington.
Tommy Grubbs, explained his father had become sick in September 2022 and had seen doctors at in three different cities, but recently a cat scan revealed Dennis had stage four pancreatic cancer that had metastasis to the liver, bladder, small intestine and space between the ribs.
The family explained they had a very difficult decision of choosing hospice care to give their father the best comfort and quality of life he had left, of which doctors believed would be hours to days at an appointment back in January. However, the family says Dennis is determined to make it to his grandson’s birthday next month in April.
“He made all our birthday cakes – for us kids and now his grandkids, he baked them all and he was really good at it,” son Bill Grubbs said. “He taught himself how to cook and bake because he was a single dad, in the military, raising three boys alone – that was not easy to do, especially in the 70s and 80s.”
Bill said he learned all his cooking secrets from his father, who had become a well known home baker in the community. However, beyond baking, Dennis learned to cook, and that is one shared love he passed down to his three sons, Tommy, Bill and Anthony (Tony).
“Everything I learned about cooking and food, I learned from my dad,” Bill said, who owns a specialty food shop in Scottsbluff. “We traveled a lot with him being in the service and he learned how to make foods from pretty much everywhere.”
“I keep running into people that say, ‘hey, your dad gave me my first bike,’ and often at no cost or low cost,” Bill reminisced. “He would patch up and fix the local kids bikes and when they asked how much they owed him, he would respond and say, ‘how much do you got?’ or have them help by taking the trash out, or something small as a service for a service sort of thing.”
It’s not just Torrington or Goshen County kids and families Dennis has helped get on two wheels, in December of 2020, Dennis worked with Denver resident, Emmanuel Sanaah, to send bikes back to his small village in Ghana.
Sanaah previously told the Telegram he had visited Torrington and discovered DG’s Bicycle Repair Shop, owned by Dennis, of which Sanaah was in ‘ah’ about after seeing the shop filled with wall to wall bicycles. It didn’t take long before the pair decided to enrich the lives of 1,000 children in Ghana with bicycles.
“He was always about kids – his kids, the community kids – all kids, it didn’t matter, my dad has had thousands upon thousands of kids sit in his lap as Santa and as the community bike man,” Bill explained. “He raised us three boys on his own and was always there for us and his grandchildren.”
Bill recalled how his dad, Dennis, would call all of his grandchildren to ensure they were up and ready for school before he got too sick to do so. “Now they are all calling me to make sure he is still doing well, it was good because the kids got to say a quick hello before they went off to school.”
Dennis is also responsible for hosting the Bike Rodeo in years past and his grandson, Chris Grubbs, hopes to continue that tradition as he begins to transition to keeping DG’s Bike Shop in the family. Chris told the Telegram he hopes to continue the Grubbs family tradition of helping the community’s children and future generations experience a fun and freedom of childhood on two wheels.
“It’s in my blood – I was basically born in the bike shop from the womb,” Chris explained. “It’s the thing I was meant to do and I started by helping my uncle (Anthony) at his shop in Scottsbluff.”
Adding, “I want to make him proud – this means honestly everything to me, to be able to continue to follow his footsteps and keep his memory and traditions alive in our community.”
When asked what he wanted the community to know of his grandfather or to remember him by, Chris said, “He is my go-to guy – in everything. It’s crazy how much he knows.”
“If I have a question, I always think, my grandpa will know, and he usually does,” Chris explained. “Or, if there is a tool I don’t have, I ask my grandpa and he has like three or them. He just loves people and helps them, especially his kids and grandkids, even when he doesn’t have to.”
“What my grandpa did for previous generations, like my dad and uncles, and the kids before me and even me, is what I want to do for today’s kids and future generations,” Chris said. “He taught me everything I need to know and he means a lot to our community so I’m glad we were able to honor him in some fashion.”
Chris hopes to continue to work with long-time partners at the Wyoming Theatre, now the Torrington Cinemas, and other various community partners to bring back the Bicycle Rodeo in honor of his grandfather. Donations made to both businesses will go to fund the rodeo in the future.
Tommy Grubbs wrote, “In the past years, DG’s Bike Shop has participated in a Safe Kids Bike Safety event for local children.”
“During this event, DG’S Bike Shop donated bike repairs, helmets, set up a bike rodeo and provided information about bike safety,” Tommy continued. “Monies donated from Saturday’s event will be used to continue this event – in memory of Dennis Grubbs.”
Adding, “Special thanks to Torrington Cinemas and Yo-Go-Licious Yougurt Shop for assisting in raising funding for this cause.”
Chris fixed up his grandfather’s 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner, a project the pair had started together, to run in the car parade on Saturday. His uncle, Anthony Grubbs, got Dennis’ mom’s truck, and 1969 green Chevy pickup, fixed up to run in the parade as well, while Bill rode in his green Volkswagen Beetle.
On Saturday, one by one, nearly 60 members of the various car communities in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and Goshen County lined up their classic vehicles at Torrington Cinemas on Main Street before getting in line for a parade to drive directly past the Grubbs home just off of Main Street in Torrington.
Dennis was sitting on his porch smiling, waving and thanking the community for its support as each vehicle passed up. As family and close friends drew near to watch the car parade honoring his lifelong commitment to the community, Some did burnouts in front of the Grubbs home, others waved and yelled, “We love you Dennis!”
Prior to settling back down in his hometown in Torrington, Dennis first served his nation in the U.S. Army as a Sergeant First Class for 21 years. That’s where he met his now ex-wife and later had their three sons. During his military career, Dennis was hand-selected for a specialized group to be stationed at the Pentagon for his “outstanding contributions” to his troop as well as his “selfless attitude, diligence and outright hard work” in his career, while stationed in Hawaii from the work he had done in Kyushu, Japan, in November 1987.
Once relocating back home to Torrington, Dennis served the city of Torrington for another 25 years while maintaining his local bike shop.
For decades, Dennis has continued to serve his community, especially kids, to ensure all children had a happy childhood and that none went without the basic childhood memory, such as riding a bike or getting to talk to Santa. His son’s, eight grandchildren and one great grandchild say they are preparing to say goodbye to their beloved dad and grandfather, but say it’s his community spirit they hope to honor after he is gone in their own work and deeds.
“My dad loves his family and this community and he has poured his life and heart out into it all – what better way to honor a man who has done so much for his family, his community and his country than to show him how much he means to us before he passes away,” Bill said. “He is going to be deeply missed and his loss will be felt everywhere in our communities. I’m preparing as best I can and having as many conversations as I can with my dad but I really don’t want to lose him to cancer – I hate cancer.”
“Ho, Ho, Ho,” in a very Santa-like, Dennis Grubbs voice one last time, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight, Torrington.”