In Memory of Raymond Beesley
The “real” Santa, Raymond Beesley, 65, passed on December 2nd, 2016. Since the ‘70’s, every winter Ray put on his signature red suit and travelled throughout New Jersey, spreading cheer. Allison Howard Beesley wrote:
“ Ray Beesley’s generosity and love of children were legendary. 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.”
Ray spent much time visiting children in hospitals, shelters, children’s centers, scout troops, churches and schools. To honor his charity work and his personal mission of spreading love, joy, and the true spirit of Christmas, his family set up “Ray’s Christmas Miracles” fund to continue his work of bringing holiday joy to children in need.
Born in Paterson, NJ, Ray lived there most of his life and raised his own family, 4 daughters and two sons, with his wife Patricia. He was a Sheet Metal Worker for many years before retiring, a member of the Knights of Columbus and a parishioner, Eucharistic Minister, and choir musician at St. Bonaventure R.C. Church in Paterson.
18 years of Ray’s Santa time was spent at Wayne Town Center. When it closed, he moved onto the Ice Caverns at Jody’s Silk Florist and Patio Center in Fairfield, keeping and growing his massive following. There he alternated between his traditional red Santa suit and a Victorian Santa suit.
Continuing his fundraising for children in need of the spirit of Christmas, Ray was Santa all year long. In warmer weather, he wore a Hawaiian shirt, red shorts and boat shoes, visiting such places as the Somerset Patriots and Jersey Jackals baseball games, in return for game tickets for wheelchair-bound children. He also “dropped in” on weddings, wearing a “formal” white Santa suit and providing bells for guests to herald the entrance of Joy.
Ice Caverns owner John Fernicola said Beesley was a “rock star” who touched many people through his work as Santa.
“His authenticity and warm presence helped build a massive following. Families returned because Beesley took his time with each child, reminding children ‘brush your teeth before bed the first time Mom and Dad ask’ and ‘always wear a helmet when you’re riding your bike.’” (dailyrecord.com)
NorthJerseySanta.com paid this tribute to Raymond:
Raymond was a friend, neighbor and man who cared about everyone, especially his family. He was a man who selflessly brought hope, love, joy, kindness, belief and the chance to relive your childhood with the spirit of Christmas. Raymond was and will remain a shining example of humanity at its best, how we should all be in this world. This man was a true angel on Earth, who touched countless lives with his kindness. (northjerseysanta.com)