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These are the stories that made us smile, made us cry or in some way left an impression on us.
PATERSON, N.J. – Thousands of "Real Santa" fans across North Jersey were saddened to discover that the bearded man with the twinkle in his eye from Paterson had passed away just weeks before Christmas.
Ray Beesley, 65, died on Dec. 2 . He spent decades brightening the holiday season for kids and parents.
Beesley was known for his kind heart and giving spirit. Since the 1970’s he had been donning his red suit to visit area churches, scout troop and organizations. And he became an institution at the Wayne Towne Center, and then the Christmas Ice Caverns at Fairfield Garden Center.
Following his death, his family quickly came up with a plan to carry on his legacy of love and generosity.
They created Ray’s Christmas Miracles, a fund to provide holiday joy to children in need.
“Ray Beesley devoted his life to children. Now his legacy may live on,” a GoFundMe page set up by his family states.
“Ray Beesley's generosity and love of children were legendary,” the page states. “For decades, he was the ‘real’ Santa to thousands of children, soothing their fears and drawing them in with a soft voice and warm smile. He made doubters into believers. He reminded parents that their children were their greatest gift, and gently reminded them to take care of themselves.”
By Tuesday evening, nearly a month after his death, the page had garnered about $16,000 in donations. And the donations and kind comments were still pouring in.
“Was blessed to know such a wonderful man! Heaven has a new angel,” wrote Donna and Ray Sooley.
In four words, John Grossi summed up what so many across Bergen and Passaic Counties have been thinking: “We will miss you, Santa.”
YEAR IN REVIEW