‘Santa’ James Zyla receives first-ever Unity Award
KINGMAN – Most people in the Kingman area know of “Santa” James Zyla. What they may not know is that he is a gifted musician and a community-minded man whose service has now been rewarded with a Key to the City and Kingman’s first Unity Award.
“Tonight, we are going to recognize a unique individual, ‘Santa’ James Zyla, who has been a part of our Kingman community for many years,” said Mayor Jen Miles at Tuesday’s Council meeting.
She said most Kingmanites have seen the legally-blind Zyla walking throughout Kingman.
“As time passed, we heard stories about how he had a great talent and used it to give back to people in our assisted living facilities,” she said. “He would play beautiful music for them and then wander back into the streets.”
She said those who speak with Zyla are met with intellect, quick wit and a positive nature “which he shares abundantly.”
Miles explained that the symbolism of a Key to the City dates back to medieval times when cities had walls and gates.
“The key symbolizes the freedom of the recipient to enter and leave the city at will, a true trusted friend of the city. ‘Santa’ James Zyla, you are a friend of the City of Kingman,” the mayor said. “You are a person who continues to share your gift of music with those in the city who live in assisted living situations, and did so even when you were walking the streets of Kingman pushing your keyboard in a shopping cart.”
Miles said Zyla’s efforts have inspired citizens to help others.
“This key is also a symbol of the Kingman community’s vast heart, willingness to help, and recognizes the many people and organizations that have banded together to provide a safe place for you and forums for your music and wit to be displayed,” Miles said. “May your journey continue to be one of positive life and light.”
Zyla, after thanking the mayor, was also presented with Kingman’s first Unity Award. That award was for “touching the hearts of so many of our citizens, inspiring a community effort to be sure your music, which is played and heard with the heart, continues.”
“Thank you very much Mayor Miles. I’d like to thank you and the councilmembers and all of the people gathered here and all of the people of Kingman,” Zyla said. “There exists in the City of Kingman a spirit of generosity you don’t find in a lot of other places.”