St. Clair City Administrator Rick Childers has been on this earth for 63 years. His wife, Letha, a licensed message therapist and active member of the city’s park board, has been around for 55 years.
Because of who they are and what they do, both are in the local spotlight quite often. However, until now, that spotlight never has included being the true center of attention at a local festival or event.
The Childerses, who have known each other for about 10 years and have been married for less than two, are this year’s grand marshals for the St. Clair Lighted Christmas Parade, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8.
The parade will form at St. Clair High School and travel along Bardot Street, East Springfield Road and South Main Street before ending near the intersection of Kitchell Avenue. After that, the focus will shift toward Main Street Park where Rick and Letha, with the help of Santa Claus, will conduct the second annual caboose lighting that helps usher in the local holiday season.
“We’ve never been grand marshals before,” Letha said during a recent interview.
With a smile, she added, “It’s becoming more difficult to come up with ‘firsts’ at this point of our lives, but this is one of them.”
Being named the parade’s grand marshals is an honorary title as the Childerses will rule over the parade and festivities on that Saturday night. They said they will ride in a yet-to-be-determined vehicle that probably won’t be a convertible.
“I want to stay warm,” Letha said.
In recent years, that has been a problem. Two years ago, cold and windy conditions made it difficult to stay warm. Last year, a steady rain provided a chill and dampened the evening’s festivities.
“I’m looking forward to being in the parade,” Letha said. “We think it’s a neat thing. It’s going to be cool, but we hope not literally.”
Rick said they never really were asked to be the grand marshals.
“We were kind of informed,” he said, adding that Ward 2 Alderman and park board liaison Barb McGlenn “pushed” them into it.
“Barb may have said something like, ‘Would you mind doing it?,’ but I don’t think we ever were truly asked,” he said with a smile. “But that’s OK. We thought it would be fun.”
When asked, the Childers said they both have been in parades in the past, but not for many years. Rick said the last parade he can remember being in was when he was a Cub Scout leader at least a decade ago in Richmond, where he lived before becoming the city administrator in St. Clair almost two years ago.
“And, of course, I was in parades with my high school marching band,” he said.
At first, Letha said she could not remember ever being in a parade per se, although she recalled walking along next to floats when her three daughters, now grown, were involved in school activities.
“I was running along the side of the float making sure the girls had their batons, flags, water or whatever they needed,” she said.
However, she then remembered something else.
“Wait, I was in a parade once. I did drive an ambulance in a parade one year when I lived in Minnesota,” she said, adding that she was an assistant manager of a volunteer ambulance service at the time.
That prompted Rick, who has two grown children, to remember another occasion, too.
“I was in one other parade, too,” he said. “In Richmond, they have a big parade with their annual mushroom festival. I rode with the police chief in his car once when I was the city administrator. It was my job to sound the siren.”
When asked if they wanted to ride in a vehicle this year that came with a horn, Letha said, “Only if it’s an ‘ooga’ horn.”
The Childerses met in St. Joseph, Mo., when Rick was the city administrator in Richmond. At the time, one of Letha’s daughters was dating St. Joseph’s director of development, and both she and Rick attended the same Chamber of Commerce function.
“I thought he was kind of cute,” Letha said of Rick. “I still do.”
At the time, Letha lived in Overland Park, Kan.
After Rick became St. Clair’s administrator in January 2012 and before the couple married later that year, either Rick or Letha would travel on weekends so the two could spend time together. When they married, Letha moved to St. Clair.
She operates her massage practice out of Bella Si Salon.
The couple said they plan to dress in some kind of holiday theme during the parade, but they have not really discussed it yet.
“We’ll come up with something,” Letha said.