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Eddie Rollins, former Lynwood postmaster and Bainbridge Island's Santa, passes away | UPDATED
Edward “Eddie” Rollins, the former postmaster for Bainbridge Island and a beloved Santa for the community, passed away on Sunday, March 25. He was 91.
Rollins was a fixture of island life ever since he first stepped foot on the island in the 1940s.
From shoveling snow, to hosting soap box derbies, to serving customers at American Marine Bank, Rollins contributed to the island’s progress throughout the 20th century in many ways.
“They don’t make them like him anymore; his sense of humor and his kindness kind of mixed together,” said Shelley Henderson, the youngest of his three daughters.
“He was a great talker. He could tell a great story and a good yarn,” she said.
Rollins was born May 22, 1920, the sixth of seven children. He came to the Bainbridge Island area courtesy of the Army, arriving a few days after the Japanese American residents were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II.
Rollins met his wife Helen Serol, a native islander, while clearing island roads of snow.
At the time Rollins was stationed in Bremerton, and would hop on the ferry from Bremerton to Crystal Springs to spend evenings dancing with his future wife.
On May 6, 1944, the two were married.
“They shared the same love of things; they both loved to dance and loved music,” Henderson said.
They didn’t like to be apart. And when her father was working for the post office, and then the bank, he would come home every day for lunch.
“They were inseparable,” she said.
After the war, he was appointed as the postmaster at the Lynwood Post Office, where he expanded the position to personally answering children’s letters to Santa.
He later continued his duties as Santa while working at American Marine Bank.
Henderson recalled watching her father play Santa, going into great detail with the children who came to visit.
“You could watch those kids’ eyes get bigger and bigger as he talked about reindeer,” she said. “It was like we really owned reindeer.”
Henderson said when she was very young, she didn’t know the man with the white whiskers was her father.
“I was too little to put it together,” she said.
Someone would go up on the roof of their home, and make noise. Her dad would say it was Santa’s reindeer, and when the kids went outside to look - it was too dark to see anything, of course - they’d come back inside to find Santa waiting for them in the living room.
His generosity was unlimited, she said. He’d buy elaborate train sets for children who didn’t have much to look forward to at Christmas.
“He brought the Navy guys home who had no place to go for Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter,” she said.
Sometimes, he could also be spotted in full Santa attire at the Town & Country Market, ringing a bell for charity.
At American Marine Bank, he was famous to children as “the lollipop man.” Kids coming to the bank with their parents would make a beeline to Rollins’ desk.
When he found the time, he would host talent shows at the Lynwood Theatre and organize soap box derbies that would run from Blakely Elementary School all the way down to Blakely Harbor.
Rollins also founded the island’s first ambulance program and served as one of its first drivers.
He was also an active member of the Rotary Club.
“He and I were in Rotary together. We worked on community projects and the annual auction,” said Chuck Cole, who knew Rollins for 40 years.
“He was an easy person to get a long with,” Cole said. “He was a very likable person”
Rollins was a huge fan of basketball, and once played against the Harlem Globetrotters.
The game was back home in Minneapolis, and it was never much of a contest. The Globetrotters toyed with her father’s team, but it was a thrill he never forgot.
“They were the best he had ever seen. He said, ‘Shell, they were just playing with us,’” Henderson recalled. “He said they were just dripping with sweat; they were drenched.”
“He said they were really masters of their craft,” she added.
In keeping with his wishes, there will be no service for Rollins. However, islanders can celebrate his life through a donation to the Bainbridge Island Ambulance Association where his grandson Eddie Henderson now works.
While there won’t be an official service, community members who knew Rollins will gather at the American Legion Hall on Bucklin Road at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 7.
“It will be nothing scripted, just coffee, cookies and punch and a chance for people to remember him,” said organizer Dan Wymer, who often met with Rollins and others who regularly gathered for coffee at the Jiffy Mart in Rolling Bay.
Rollins is also survived by his daughter Susan Campbell, grandson Chris Campbell and granddaughter Michelle Herbert of Missouri, and grandsons Eddie and Joe Henderson of Bainbridge Island.