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Yes, Virginia, there was and is a Santa Claus

As if 2020 weren’t bad enough already, I am sad to inform you that now we have to contend with the death of Santa A. Claus of Easton.

I am not talking about someone who played the role of Santa during the Christmas season - although ours certainly did that, too, - but our Santa’s real name was Santa A. Claus. (The “A” stands for Allentown, where he was born.)

After portraying Santa for years, he changed his name officially in 1995 from J. Patrick Allen. Don’t think that this didn’t take some doing. Allen waged a relentless nine-year battle to have his name changed legally. Initially, both the state and Lehigh County rejected his petition. Only after the persistent intercession of former state Sen. and former Allentown Mayor Roy Afflerbach and several other prominent county residents was the petition accepted.

The published obituary in late August did not give Santa’s age. Mrs. Claus, Santa’s wife of 58 years, said she wants his age to remain secret because “Santa is ageless.” On the rare occasion when Santa was asked his age, he would reply, “Twice as old as my beard and a little older than my teeth.”

Of course, this reply was not completely original. A variation of it was first seen in the job application that Kriss Kringle (Edmund Gwynn) turned in at Macy’s department store when he was asked his date of birth in the 1946 Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street - “as old as my tongue but a little bit older than my teeth.

Even this was not original. The response on the application form goes back to 1738 and shows up verbatim in British satirist Jonathan Swift’s “Public Conversations.”

Our Santa A. Claus began portraying the jolly old elf in the early-1960s, performing largely at family gatherings and appearing at Christmas events for the Catasauqua Fire Department. In 2013, he was a featured attraction at the City of Bethlehem’s Christmas celebration to commemorate his 50th year as Santa.

He turned his avocation into a paying job in 1983 when he became the Lehigh Valley Mall’s Santa. He also worked in this capacity at the Concord Mall near Wilmington, Delaware. Obviously, though, being a professional Santa only goes so far financially, so he had to supplement his income during the rest of the year by working at Mack Trucks and driving trucks and school buses.

Santa and his wife, Dolores, even raised reindeer for a stretch in Lackawanna County, but after he developed heart issues, they moved back to the Easton area to be closer to family.

Santa was a skilled trapshooter and served as exalted ruler of an Elks Lodge in Binghamton, New York. He was a volunteer firefighter in several communities for 27 years.

Among survivors is his daughter, Colleen Jones of Jim Thorpe.

Consistent with Santa’s big heart, he asked that contributions be made in Santa’s name to the donor’s favorite charity.

You may have guessed that this is not the only officially named “Santa Claus” in the United States. Frank Pascuzzi, 62, who lives in Valley Stream, New York, legally changed his name in Suffolk County Supreme Court in 2012.

The New York Santa attracted international attention when the name-change petition was granted eight years ago, and the story was featured in Time, Newsweek and Woman’s Home Companion magazines.

The always sensitive business community has wondered in these politically correct times whether the Santa role should be dominated by a male. Graphic Times, a logo-creation company, polled 400 people within the United States and the United Kingdom to answer this question.

Nearly 19% of U.S. respondents said the character should not be identified either as male or female. More than 10% percent said a woman should fill the role. More than 70% said Santa should remain exclusively male.

Sanity! Hooray!

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com