WILLIAMSON COUNTY -- Opal Avery has done a bit of everything but she's found her biggest success in her role as "Mrs. Claus," a job she has willingly performed for the past 11 years.
"Has is been that long?" she asked with a chuckle. "No wonder my dress is getting smaller every year."
Avery, who is 82, has played the role since being approached by Anthony Spiller in 2010 when he decided to put on the "Hometown Christmas" celebration in Johnston City.
"I was teaching at Lincoln School and saw the poverty," said Spiller. "I figured if people couldn't afford clothing for their kids then getting photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus wasn't even a possibility."
His vision was to have an event where everything is free.
That sent him to friends, including Avery.
"She's just a natural," said Spiller. "She's bubbly, always smiling, and she loves kids."
Spiller also said he wanted to include the older people.
"It gives them something to look forward to," he said.
Avery said part of the fun is getting ready with help from her sister, Barbara Vatovec.
"We cut up and act silly," she said. "We laugh until we cry."
Avery said her costume, made by a home economics student from Johnston City High School, is the same one she's worn for 11 years.
"I don't wear a hat, she said. "It messes up hair and gets hot."
Instead, she adorns her snow-white curls with a poinsettia clip.
"Everybody always comments on that," she said.
As much as she has prepping, though, it's the kids who keep her coming back, about 600 of them a year.
"I just love the children,' said the still active member of the Lions Club. "I didn't have any children of my own, but I've always loved kids. I talk to them. They seem to like me. They tell me I'm pretty."
Avery said she's enjoyed seeing many of the kids as they've grown up during her reign as Santa's wife.
"They know me every year."
She has no plans to retire her role.
"Anthony has already asked me for next year," she said. "As long as they want me, I'll be Johnston City's Mrs. Claus."