Hanscom AFB retiree returns each December to spread holiday cheer

  • Published
  • By Todd Maki
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – A longtime former base employee has become a beloved figure during the holiday season here.

After nearly 27 years in the military and another 15 years as a federal civilian, retired Senior Master Sgt. Steve Tupeck continues to serve at Hanscom AFB, albeit in a different capacity.  

Tupeck has been playing Santa Claus at Hanscom AFB since approximately 2001, when another longtime military and civilian employee, retired Col. Nick Zallas, felt he could no longer fulfill this role.

“This is my way of saying thank you to the Hanscom Air Force Base community for their service and sacrifice,” Tupeck said. 

“Nick got to the point where his knees would not allow him to climb the fire truck for the annual tree lighting ceremony on base,” Tupeck said. “Following a knee surgery in approximately 2012, he walked down the hall [in building 1305] and asked if I could fill in and it just took off from there.”

Again this year, Tupeck participated in the tree lighting ceremony Dec. 4, attended by several hundred on and off base community members, and the annual Hanscom Spouses Club Breakfast with Santa at the Minuteman Commons.

He also regularly volunteers at the December Hearts Apart event, distributing gifts to children of deployed or extended temporary duty personnel or in the Exceptional Family Member Program, along with those of single parents assigned to Hanscom AFB. Tupeck also attends squadron and other events when asked. 

“I know how my kids felt when I was gone [deployed],” he said. “I feel privileged to continue serving in this unique way. The bonds formed here are truly special, and being Santa allows me to give back to those who have given so much to our country.”

Tupeck retired from the military at Hanscom AFB in 2003 from the former 66th Mission Support Squadron. He returned to the base as a federal civilian shortly after retiring from the military.

He retired from his civilian position in December 2018 as the 66th Force Support Squadron Military Personnel Flight chief.

“Bringing the magic of this time of year to the men and women of Hanscom Air Force Base is an honor I cherish,” said Tupeck. “I’ll continue to do it because of the joy it brings to our community.”