Spotlight: Steve Hatfield
Q: First, I have to ask: Why do you play Santa Claus?
A long time ago when I worked for the Air Force, someone asked me to be Santa Claus at an event and I had a lot of fun. It makes my day to see the kids at the local orphanage smiling when they get presents from someone looking like Santa. I also dress up for the Jingle Bell Fun Run put on by the athletic department.
Q: You do it at Camp Lester hospital every year as well.
Yes, whether they are Marines, spouses or kids, it’s nice to give people presents at Christmas. Someone asks you to do something and you stop and think, “I really enjoy this.” I also go with the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) to crippled children’s hospitals. At 170 pounds, I need a lot of padding and to make sure the beard fits right. (The kids) love to pull on the beard.
Q: When did you first come to Okinawa?
I was assigned here in January 1974 while I was in the Marine Corps and stayed until 1975 when I left the Corps. I went to Camp Fuji to work for the Marine Corps community in 1977-1978, but then came back to Okinawa. I’ve seen a little bit of history and a lot of change since Okinawa’s reversion (to Japanese sovereignty) in 1972.
What did you do in the Marine Corps?
I joined the Corps in 1966 and served in Vietnam in 1966-68 and 1970-71. I was a combat engineer; the Marine Corps called us “Rough Riders.” If a bridge was blown up, we put up a temporary one. I taught land mine warfare, demolition and booby traps at Da Nang (Air Base)
What did you do after leaving the Marine Corps?
I went to work for a Japanese company that sold stereo equipment to Marine Corps hobby shops and exchange services for 5 1/2 years. I became managing director of the company and also managed a store. In between being in the Marine Corps and working for the Air Force, I owned an Italian restaurant and sports lounge, and dabbled in used cars. I also worked briefly for the USO.
You’re very talented.
I learned to do a lot of different things. I was the main man at the Kadena Carnival (now called AmericaFest), the biggest matsuri (festival) on Okinawa, for 12 1/2 years. I also ran the Kadena Marina for seven years and was acting director and then assistant director of the Schilling Recreation Center. In May 1995, I became a special events coordinator at the Marine MWR (Morale,Welfare and Recreation), then chief of special events.
Now you are the MCCS (Marine Corps Community Services) camp manager for Camp Hansen, Camp Schwab, Ie Shima island, and JWTC (Jungle Warfare Training Center).
The MCCS motto here is “We make Okinawa home.” We have to bring things to (the Marines) here in the north (where there is not much entertainment off base) that we have in the south. It does your heart good to see (the Marines here) having a good time.
You are also a member of the VFW.
(The VFW) got a lot of their members during the Vietnam War, and they maintained their membership here (even after returning to the U.S.). They have a fondness for Okinawa and the original posts they joined. When you’ve been here as long as I have, you don’t lose contact with each other. You run into (members) at the commissary and other places on base, and catch up on the news.
You are 66 years old now. How long will you keep on working?
I’ll continue working until it’s not fun anymore. I enjoy my job. I work to stay busy and so my mind doesn’t go idle. I take it one day at a time.
You have had some tragedy in your life.
Both of my wives (one from Okinawa and one from the Philippines) died in the last 5 1/2 years. What kept me going was the people I work with and how kind they have been to me. My boss stayed with me at the hospital (one time) until 3 a.m. Somebody else called him (to say where I was).
What are your plans for the future?
I’m not ready to retire. If you enjoy what you do, why retire? I enjoy the companionship and comradeship, and my oldest child is here. When I do retire, I can’t afford to stay in Okinawa. It’s too expensive. I am looking at Florida or the Philippines. I know many expats in Angeles City in the Philippines and the economy there is pretty reasonable. These are people who were my friends when I worked for the Air Force and the Marine Corps. It’s not bad to retire, as long as you are ready and are in the right place.
Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary – even, dare we say, oddball? If so, nominate them here.
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