Santa Claus carver dies

CATAWBA – Santa Claus carver John Starkey is being remembered this week, after the Catawba wood carver died Sunday from an apparent heart attack while working on his Roanoke County farm near where he was born. Starkey’s work is in private collections across the Roanoke Valley, Virginia, many states and a number of other countries.

Visitation will be from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 21, at Simpson Funeral Home at 5160 Peters Creek Road in Roanoke. He will be buried on the farm where he and his wife of 37 years, Brenda, live.

John Starkey's Santa purchased by a couple at Catawba Holiday Market on Nov. 17 will be going to Slovakia. Photo by Ann Harrell

Starkey was carving his Santas on Saturday, Nov. 17, the day before he died, at the Catawba Holiday Market at the Catawba Community Center where he went to elementary school. He was a crafter there during the summers at the Catawba Valley Farmers’ Market on Thursday afternoons.

To see his work and learn more about Johnny Starkey, see  the article published in December 2011 at

For more about Starkey, see this week’s print edition of the Salem Times-Register, Nov. 22, and Meg Hibbert’s blog on this same website, “The Man who Carved Santa Claus.”