Santa A. Claus was a Pennsylvania native who portrayed the jolly old elf for more than 50 years and legally changed his name to reflect his role.
- Died: August 27, 2020 (Who else died on August 27?)
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Reindeer and all
Claus began playing Santa for friends and family in 1963, making his first public appearances in 1983 at the Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall, Pennsylvania. Born J. Patrick Allen, he went through a nine-year legal battle to change his name before finally being granted permission in 1995 – the middle initial, A, reflected his hometown of Allentown. With his wife, Dolores, at his side as his Mrs. Claus, he became a popular and beloved fixture at malls, including the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, where in 1992 he became the new mall’s first Santa. Claus also appeared in TV commercials and newspaper ads. He took Santa duty very seriously, and for a time, Claus and his wife owned a herd of reindeer that lived on their Pennsylvania land. Claus was also a truck driver and contractor.
Claus on why he changed his name
“I wanted my name so that when children ask me to show ID and everything else, I can do it. I want them to have something they can believe in.” —from a 2013 interview with the Morning Call
Tributes to Santa A. Claus
Full obituary: The Morning Call