Santa Claus died on Aug. 25 of an apparent heart attack. He was 59.
Born Robert William Rion, the northern Illinois man legally changed his name in 1997 after decades of playing Santa. The 6-foot, 300-pound Claus, who sported a white beard and loved to spread good cheer, also operated a Santa Claus telephone hotline for kids.
When asked why he wanted to change his name, Claus replied: “I want to get my driver’s license in the name of Santa Claus. That way, if one of the little ones says, ‘You’re not really Santa Claus,’ I can pull out the license and say, ‘Well, this says that I am.'”