WAYNE, N.J. - People all across New Jersey took to social media to mourn the passing of Ray Beesley.
Beesley was known to many as the 'Real Santa' for his authentic year round look, jolly spirit, and the charitable things he did, such as make appearances at New Jersey Jackals games in exchange for tickets for sick kids.
Ray Beesley of Paterson has been portraying Santa since the 70s and gained a massive following playing Santa at the Wayne Towne Center for 18 years. Following the closure of that mall, he relocated to the Ice Caverns at the Fairfield Garden Center, where he has been since.
"I have known him since my childhood from the old neighborhood. He would give you the shirt of his back," said Hillery Street Grill owner Frank Funiciello.
"I had the opportunity to meet Ray (Santa) at Hillery Street Restaurant where he ate often, got to know him and he was always just as friendly as you would expect Santa to be. He was one of the kindest souls I knew," said Sam Yodice, who is a member of the Passaic Valley Board of Education.
Even morning anchor Kurt Siegelin of News 12 New Jersey wrote a tribute on Facebook saying, "I'm thinking if his family. I am thinking of the good folks at Fairfield Garden Center. This is going to be a very tough Christmas this year. Ray, you were the best!"