LINCOLNTON, N.C. — The Lincolnton community is devastated after the man known as “Santa Jim” died Monday after battling COVID-19.
“This Christmas is not going to be normal by any stretch of the imagination,” Mayor Ed Hatley said. “What makes is doubly bad for us is we lost Santa Claus.”
James Helms, who had an unmistakable white beard, was best known as Santa Jim and proudly served as Lincolnton’s Santa Claus.
“One of the first assignments that fell in my lap was the annual Christmas parade, which is a huge, huge celebration here, and we needed a Santa,” said Laura Morris, community relations director.
She said Helms was the perfect choice.
“It just became a huge community activity,” Morris said. “We had lines waiting to meet him."
“Almost every child that is in Lincoln County and the surrounding area came here,” Hatley said.
Helms was ready to step in the boots of Saint Nicholas once again this year, despite the pandemic, but he was admitted to a hospital in October after contracting COVID-19.
“When he went into the hospital right before Halloween, I knew he wouldn’t be able to do it,” Morris said. “But he was game.”
She said Helms was a kind and gracious man who adored his wife and loved children.
“And it was heartbreaking to learn of his passing yesterday,” Morris said.
The city plans to honor the man who has been Santa since 2017.
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