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Devoted Son Builds His Mother A Sleigh Just Two Weeks Before She Passes Away

Devoted Son Builds His Mother A Sleigh Just Two Weeks Before She Passes Away

A former Hollywood set designer built his Christmas-obsessed mother a sleigh fit for Santa Claus - just two weeks before she unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack.

Jeffrey Michaels, 51, constructed the massive red carriage as a surprise for his 80-year-old mother Rita Ruffner and after her sudden death, it has become even more important to the family.

The musician, who is based in Las Vegas, said: "Something special happened with the sleigh itself after we lost my mother.

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"It has taken on its own identity. It is still sitting in the front yard of the house and people come by to have their pictures taken with it.

"One of the things my mother wanted was for families to take pictures in the sleigh."

A former Hollywood set designer built his Christmas-obsessed mother a sleigh fit for Santa Claus (Credit: SWNS)
A former Hollywood set designer built his Christmas-obsessed mother a sleigh fit for Santa Claus (Credit: SWNS)

Jeffrey said Rita, who was a grandmother-of-ten, adored Christmas and even decorated her home with festive ornaments all year round.

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"Christmas was her best holiday," Jeffrey said. "It was an all-year-round thing for her.

"She kept up her holiday decorations and listened to Christmas music all-year-round. She watched Christmas movies no matter the season.

Jeffery built the red carriage in secret to surprise his mother (Credit: SWNS)
Jeffery built the red carriage in secret to surprise his mother (Credit: SWNS)

Jeffrey travelled to Pennsylvania from his home in Las Vegas without telling his mother and secretly turned her garage into a carpenter's workshop.

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He said: "I built it in her garage. She had no idea I was even in town. I was staying at my sister's house and working in my mother's garage.

"It was a real labour of love. The sleigh is made out of birch. I drew the design on the wood and cut it out.

"It is painted red and gold. The sleigh itself is 8ft by 4ft. It is a two-person sleigh. The materials cost me around $300."

He unveiled the sleigh two weeks before his mother unexpectedly passed away (Credit: SWNS)
He unveiled the sleigh two weeks before his mother unexpectedly passed away (Credit: SWNS)
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Jeffrey explained his idea was that while reindeers pull Santa's sleigh at Christmas, the rest of the year horses take over the task.

The family threw Rita a surprise party for her 80th birthday on 26th October and the next day Jeffrey unveiled the sleigh in her front yard.

He said: "I put it in the front yard for her and told her to come outside. She was shocked and ecstatic. She was so proud of it - she called everyone to tell them about her sleigh."

Sadly, a fortnight later, Rita passed away from a heart attack and in honour of her love of Christmas, the family decorated her casket with snowmen.

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The former Hollywood set designer said that the sleigh means a lot to the family (Credit: SWNS)
The former Hollywood set designer said that the sleigh means a lot to the family (Credit: SWNS)

Jeffrey believed that he was meant to make the sleigh for Rita just before she passed away.

He said: "She had been talking about a sleigh for the past few years and this year I had the time to go home and build it. I'm so glad she saw it before she was gone."

The musician hopes that people who see Rita's sleigh will consider making a donation to the American Heart Association in her name.

Featured Image Credit: SWNS

Topics: Christmas, Life News, Real

Lisa McLoughlin

Lisa is a freelance journalist working for Tyla and the team's token Dubliner. After graduating with a MA in PR and Digital Marketing from D.I.T., she worked for MailOnline, Sun Online, Irish Independent and broadcaster RTÉ. Got a story of interest or want advice on how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness? Then email her at [email protected]