RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Christmas will be different this year in Richmond. Ricky Duling, a former Richmond police sergeant who selflessly gave away toys to children in need during the holidays has passed away.
Few people in Richmond ever refereed to Ricky Duling, by the name on his birth certificate. To the thousands of people he touched, he was always Sergeant Santa.
"It's a wonderful feeling to know that today you are going to make a lot of people happy," said Sergeant Santa in a previous interview.
Sergeant Santa made people happy by handing out presents to children in need out of a city police cruiser.
"He couldn't enough toys in the police car, he was lucky to get into it himself; I mean the police car was so full," said Capt. Ken Jenkins with Richmond Police Department.
Everything about Sgt. Santa was Richmond. Even his workshop, which wasn't in the North Pole, but on West Marshall Street, in the heart of the city. And for Duling that meant going to the places in Richmond that needed the most help.
"Some of the projects that we have in Richmond are the largest in the East Coast between New York and Atlanta," said Jenkins. "And he didn't miss a one."
His selfless work, which often meant nights where he would get only 1 or 2 hours of sleep, brought people to tears. Now, just days after his death, his closest friends are the ones in tears.
"I get choked up sometimes because I see the expression on these kids faces because if it wasn't for him they wouldn't have gotten anything for Christmas. And I mean nothing," Jenkins said.
And now the community is left to wonder who will fill the hole he has left behind.
"Hopefully, so group will come in and pick up where he left off," added Jenkins.
A hole that will seem even greater when the holiday season rolls around again in Richmond. Sergeant Duling started at the Richmond police department in 1953. He retired in 1988 and went to work full time on his Sergeant Santa charity.