WESTFIELD, NJ – The people of Westfield are mourning the loss of Tom Pearson, lovingly known as the town Santa Claus, who died on Wednesday, Sept. 13. After nearly 20 years in the role of Santa, hundreds of local families had come to cherish their time with him every year.

Pearson was 70 years old.

Sherry Cronin, executive director of the Downtown Westfield Corporation, shared her sentiments about Pearson’s role in the town’s Christmas celebrations.

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“Tom just loved to see photos of all the kids when they were younger,” Cronin shared. “People would come back years later with pictures of themselves and Santa, and it was amazing to see how Tom remembered the families and their names.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus, played by Joan Potts, filled an integral part in the town’s annual “Welcome Home to Westfield” Christmas celebration. The Downtown Westfield Corporation hired Pearson every year to spend the Friday, Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving strolling through town and chatting with visitors while stopping in to check out local businesses. Photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Lord & Taylor became a beloved tradition.

“Photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus always allowed us to collect a lot of food for the Westfield Food Pantry,” Cronin said. “Every year, families would receive a coupon for a free 5 x7 with two cans of food. We always got several van loads of food that we brought over after the three day event.”

The festivities concluded each year with Santa hitching a ride on the Westfield Fire Department fire truck and the ceremonial lighting of the town Christmas tree.

Cronin and Beth Brenner, assistant executive director of the Downtown Westfield Corporation, said they were saddened by the town’s loss but ensure that this beloved holiday tradition will continue.

“We really want to honor Tom’s life,” Cronin said. “He just truly cared about the kids and their families. His time here was magical.”

To read his obituary, click here.