PATERSON, N.J. – The man who many considered the “Real Santa Claus” and the most popular Santa in North Jersey passed away Friday, according to numerous reports.
Ray Beesley of Paterson had been portraying Santa Claus since the 1970’s, visiting area churches, scout troops and organizations, according to his website www.northjerseysanta.com .
He played Santa at the Wayne Towne Center for 18 years, and gained a massive following. More recently, he had donned his red suit at the Christmas Ice Caverns at Fairfield Garden Center.
According to his website, Beesley played Santa year-round, “sporting a Bahamas-style shirt, red shorts, and boat shoes in the off season when he visits such places as Jersey Jackals and Somerset Patriots baseball games, asking only for game tickets for wheelchair-bound kids in return.”
His followers flooded Facebook with posts of condolences Friday evening.
“I brought my kids to the ‘Real Santa’ every year… He took such pleasure in helping others. He gave every child individualized attention who visited him during Christmas season,” wrote Christine McNally Catrone.
“He was the kindest gentlest man you could meet,” Derrick Luciano wrote.
“He was such a magical soul,” Daniella Buscio wrote.