"Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" is a phrase you've surely heard and while many people know the general idea of the story, few people know the rest of the story -- until now. We have a very special photo of Virginia that was taken on Christmas Eve before she passed away.

'Is There A Santa Claus?'

Virginia O’Hanlon was just 8 years old in 1897 when she famously asked that yearning question as children her age continue to do – is there a Santa Claus? At the advice from her father, Virginia posed the question to The Sun, New York’s prominent newspaper. Columnist Francis Church answered Miss O’Hanlon with a response that has become as synonymous with Christmas as the man whose existence was in question: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Virginia believed Church all the way through her later years that she lived out in the Albany area, her faith confirmed with a visit from Santa himself one Christmas Eve night in 1969. Santa dropped by a local hospital to visit Virginia and we have an exclusive, never-before seen photo of the two Christmas legends.

"Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus"

Virginia O’Hanlon's original letter
PBS/Antiques Roadshow

In her letter, to The Sun, Virginia wrote, “Papa says if you see it in The Sun it’s so.” The Sun’s Francis Church responded with arguably the greatest newspaper editorial printed, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Bestowing his belief in Santa Claus to Virginia, Church pens “Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.” Church continued, “He lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.” Virginia held onto these beliefs and she brought them with her right here, near the Albany area.

After marrying, having a daughter of her own and earning her doctorate from Fordham University, Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas spent 43 years as an educator. In 1959, at the age of 70, the retired Virginia moved to North Chatham, a small town roughly 15 miles south of Albany. In 1969, O’Hanlon was hospitalized due to heart trouble and had to spend the holidays in the Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson, NY. Christmas Eve night, Santa Claus, the man whose existence she once pondered, paid a visit to Virginia. Was Church right, does Santa exist? According to Virginia, he does.

'She Told Me She Still Believes In Santa Claus'

John Harms, a maintenance worker for the hospital, would routinely visit patients while playing Santa Claus. Who better to visit at the hospital than the girl that helped restore our faith in Father Christmas so many years ago? Donning the famed red suit and white beard, “Santa” visited Virginia in her room. After kissing Virginia’s cheek, according to the New York Times, Harms told a reporter “She told me she still believes in Santa Claus.”

Hams' wife, Grace Harms, was in the room when the meeting took place. Thanks to the Harms family, sisters Catherine and Maria, their mother Florence (Harms) Wintjen, and with the help of my mother, Sherry, we have been blessed with an exclusive, previously unseen photo of this special encounter between Virginia and “Santa”

Two years after the visit from Santa, Virginia passed away while living in the Barnwell Nursing Home in Valatie, NY. In the center's entrance resides a plaque that boasts a quote from Virginia -“Remember the children at Christmas.”


'He Exists As Certainly As Love And Generosity And Devotion Exist'

Francis Church remembered the children at Christmas. Through his inspirational words, the belief in Santa Claus has stood strong for over a century. Virginia O’Hanlon brought her belief right here, locally. If your children ask you this Christmas, or if you have any doubts of your own as to the existence of Santa, recall Church’s quote in The Sun, “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist.”



More From 107.7 WGNA