For decades, Alvin “Red” Bassham of Boyd brought many smiles to the young and old alike through his disguises. During the holiday season, Red and his sweet wife, Carolyn, visited area nursing homes, daycares and banks dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus.
The couple also elicited smiles and laughter at birthday parties, reading programs and community events such as Big Red-O and Shy Violet the clowns.
In between, they spread their happiness with their warm smiles and heartfelt hugs.
“Alvin had so many friends, even I could hardly believe it,” his bride said. “His friends came from every walk of life, and he saw no race or color. People would come and tell me how he had befriended them at some time. Everyone said he was such an inspiration.
“He fought so hard to live, but at the end when he realized he couldn’t, then he asked for prayers that he could go home and be out of pain,” she continued. “But he laughed and teased, no matter how sick he was at the Cancer Center through four different kinds of chemos. He always had such a pleasant attitude that the people there were quite attached to him. It was the hardest nine months of my life.”
I met the couple in December 2010 while working on a feature story about a rocking chair they had lost more than 25 years before. Unbeknownst to them, a couple they knew had actually recovered, repaired and kept the chair.
The revelation was made during a conversation at the bank more than a quarter-of-a-century later and a few weeks after that, the Basshams got to see their chair again.
Thereafter, whenever I saw the charismatic couple around town at the grocery store or in the bank, they greeted me with warm embraces and beaming smiles.
Last summer Alvin was diagnosed with cancer. Although he “fought an unbelievable fight for life for 10 months,” his sweetheart said, he passed away May 28, 2012, at his home in Boyd.
Alvin’s health prevented him from playing Santa, during the holiday season that year.
“He was just so heartbroken,” Carolyn said. “He loved people in general, but he had a great love for kids and making them smile.”
Big Red-O’s family members have made sure that his memory will continue to bring smiles.
Shortly after Red’s death, family friends established a memorial account at First Financial Bank in Boyd for memorials in lieu of flowers. A few weeks later, Carolyn and her children decided to make Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth its benefactor.
“That is where most people in this area take their ill children,” Carolyn said. “And this will be his way to make them smile and feel a little better.”
To donate, visit First Financial Bank in Boyd, Bridgeport or Decatur or visit www.forevermissed.com/alvin-red-bassham#about.