Newly baptized Mrs. Claus, who also works as a nurse, celebrates with the Oak Grove reception.
The wedding of Oregon City Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus showed how well Santa Claus, also known as Keith McDonley, has bounced back from a bout of COVID that included 62 days in the hospital.
Oregon City’s Santa and Mrs. Claus were married at a Christmas tree farm in Molalla, and their Christmas-themed dinner reception was held at Gray Gables Estate in Oak Grove on Aug. 8. Their event served as a celebration of the anniversary of “McDonley’s Christmas miracle last August”, when he woke from a coma.
McDonley, known as Milwaukie Santa for 11 years, became Oregon City’s Santa starting last December. The couple had purchased their home in Oregon City just days before he was hospitalized.
From his driveway for a few hours every night in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, McDonley poses for free photos with families, collects gifts and donates them to families in need.
“Last August I was just coming out of my coma, I had to try to relearn how to sit and walk,” he said.
Last August, McDonley walked down the aisle with his wife, Hayley Cogburn, an Oregon-born and raised registered nurse. McDonley calls him “my superhero”.
“Without Hayley’s love and support over the past year, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
Cogburn, now known as Oregon City Mrs Claus, regularly joins Oregon City Santa (and Milwaukie Santa before that) on his nights off, usually helping McDonley take pictures during his nightly duties as Santa. Christmas during the holiday season.
Cogburn said holding a bedside vigil at McDonley’s hospital and not being able to do anything to help her was one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do.
“I knew I wanted to marry my best friend when he was in a coma, and when Keith woke up from the coma, I even considered asking Keith to marry me in the hospital, but I knew that he would heal and we would have our Christmas wedding,” she said.
For the wedding, the couple hired a horse and carriage, carolers, another Santa, Kona Ice and country music artist Buddy Jewell. The wedding had snow, Christmas lights and all the magical possibilities McDonley has learned in a decade of portraying Santa Claus. All their guests received Christmas presents from Santa Claus himself.
The McDonleys met on the “OK Cupid” dating app about six years ago. Last year, they experienced more together than most married couples ever have to endure together.
While McDonley was hospitalized, Cogburn worked her 12-hour shifts at the hospital and still came to her boyfriend’s bedside every day for 14 hours a day.
“Hayley is an extremely strong, big-hearted woman who loves caring for others,” McDonley said.
Cogburn credits McDonley’s current health to his will to live, the undying love of God, the prayer he received and the couple’s love for each other. Cogburn has enlisted people from around the world, including as far away as Kenya, to pray for her recovery from COVID.
“Most people who go through everything Keith has been through don’t survive, but Keith did, and for that I thank God every day,” she said.
McDonley said he had “always been gross” of medical stuff.
“So being engaged to a nurse is the complete opposite of me, but what they say is true, opposites attract,” he said.
McDonley’s involvement with a nurse “really saved my life,” he said, as her knowledge of the medical field provided him with much-needed comfort during his recovery process.
“I knew if Hayley wasn’t worried, I shouldn’t be either,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t know how Hayley coped with it all in the last year, while working and packing to move into the new house.”
Cogburn felt what she called “an unnatural sense of peace knowing that Keith would be fine” even in the most difficult times.
“Most people don’t have such a sense of peace when their loved one is in such dire condition, but for some reason I do,” she said. “Keith is also a tough-headed, strong-willed fighter, and I knew Keith wouldn’t go down without a fight.”
McDonley said he always knew Cogburn loved him, but last year she showed it more than he could have ever imagined. When they took their vows, they had already been tested on the “by sickness and health” part.
As he lay in his hospital bed days before being intubated, McDonley called Cogburn’s father asking for permission to marry his daughter.
“I remember telling Hayley’s dad, David, that I didn’t want to go another day without being married to her,” McDonley said.
As their wedding officiant, they chose the husband of one of the nurses at McDonley’s Hospital, bringing the whole experience of the past year on a roll. Their wedding date, 8/8, was chosen because McDonley spent a total of eight weeks in the hospital, where he received eight scars and stayed in eight different hospital rooms.
“We both love that the number eight on the side is the symbol for infinity,” he said. “Also, the number eight represents new beginnings.”
Cogburn said their marriage was more magical than they could have ever imagined. Even in the heat of August, the magic of Christmas woke up more than once for the couple and the wedding guests.
“Everyone had a great time,” she said.
Several guests told the McDonleys that their wedding was more Christmas than others they had attended in December. Their flower girl’s grandfather was not a fan of weddings, but wanted to see his granddaughter. Leaving the reception, Grandpa said it was the “best wedding ever” and he had so much fun.
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