Is There a Santa Claus?

In his famous response to Virginia O’Hanlon’s question about Santa Claus, Francis Pharcellus Church said, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy.”  We find that love and generosity in the lives of people all around us.  Here are just a few Santa Clauses from Find a Grave that remind us about making life enjoyable and bringing joy to the world.

The tradition of Santa is based, at least in part, on a real man, St. Nicholas of Myra. Born in what is now Turkey to wealthy parents who died young, Nicolas gave his inheritance to the poor and needy. One of the best-known legends of Nicholas is that of a man who had three daughters and not enough money to provide dowries for them. It is said that Nicholas walked by the house and threw a bag of gold through the window (or alternatively, down the chimney) on three consecutive nights. Other similar stories exist, and Nicholas became symbolic of secret gift giving.

For 68 of his 90 years Jim Yellig donned the red suit and transformed into Jolly old Saint Nick. It all started when he was in the Navy in 1914. His ship was docked in Brooklyn and his shipmates had an idea to throw a party for underprivileged children in the area. They knew he was from the area of Santa Claus, Indiana, and thus nominated him to play Santa Claus. He loved playing the part, especially seeing how happy it made children.

After WWI, Yellig left the service and got married. A few years later he returned to his hometown of Mariah Hill. A friend of his, James F. Martin, was the postmaster in Santa Claus. He had been answering children’s letters for years and he needed help! In 1935, Yellig organized a group called the Santa Claus American Legion Post to help answer letters. He also dressed the part and quickly became a fixture in the town of Santa Claus. In 1946, the Santa Claus theme park opened and Yellig was the star of the show. He wrote a booklet titled, “It’s Fun to be a Real Santa Claus,” which tells the history of Santa Claus as well as providing training and tips to becoming Santa. The years went on and thousands of children knew him as their Santa. He often surprised children as he spoke five languages. Jim was Santa for so long, generations of families enjoyed the tradition of sitting on his lap and telling him what they wished for. At age 90 he said, “Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this now [but] I feel like I’ve got a little soul here who will grow up someday and possibly remember a few things.”

Mr. Santa Clause spent many a December answering thousands of letters that he received. His father, who had a good sense of humor, gave him the name, Santa Clause. He was a plumber and pastor and had seven children of his own. But, during the Christmas season, there were times when he cut short time with his own family to attend to all the mail that he received. He felt it was important to write the children back, but didn’t have the funds for all the stamps he needed to reply to 6,000 letters per year. Generous friends donated to the stamp fund, and he was able to answer those letters for many years. He spent much of his life clean shaven, but this article refers to growing out his beard and then “whitening his whiskers” to be the real town Santa from Marshall, Missouri.

We’re left to wonder about the life of Jimmy Lee Pace. His funeral notice only gives us the clue that he used the name “Santa Claus.” He must have been a person who played the part as we’re left with a second clue, the Santa boot on his headstone.

We wish you and yours a happy holiday season and hope that “love and generosity and devotion … abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy.”


  1. Thank you for these wonderful stories and Pics…they are a special Gift, as they allow us to remember the Sacred moments and caring people in our lives, who were extraordinary!

    Bishop +Michael Carroll

    • we call santa claus in the netherlands sinterklaas in america sinterklaas has changed into santa claus and are actually the same person

    • I put a Santa mailbox in my front yard for children to post a letter to Santa. I answer the letters and then I deliver it to their homes and place it in their mailbox.

      When I was checking for any mail in said Santa mailbox to my surprise someone had left Santa some mail attached to a small box of chocolates.
      This bought a little tear to my eyes.

  2. The Santa of my small SE FL tropical small town, of my childhood is buried in the cemetery adjacent to the church I grew up in. That Santa knew the names of alll the kids. We didn’t have to tell him who we were as we climb into his lap. We didn’t have chimneys – so he brought our gifts in a red Mercedes Benz and coming in through the Florida Room, which northern folk call the family room. May Harry Heritage rest in peace.

  3. Thank you for this sweet story. Don’t forget to “Track Santa Clause”.

  4. These stories were touching. It is so wonderful to know that there will always be those in this world who do so much more than what might otherwise be expected of them.

  5. A slight correction is needed. The section about Jim Yellig says “For 68 of his 88 years,” but then gives a quote from him at age 90. In fact, according to“Jim”_Yellig, the latter age is correct: Jim Yellig did survive to the age of 90 before being called to the North Pole in the Sky.

    • I love these stories. Makes me remember my childhood days how i couldnt wait to put out the milk& cookies before going to bed on Christmas Eve and rushing to see if santa came and ate the cookies an drank the milk we left

  6. All these Santas in cemeteries are obviously imposters. The real Santa is immortal and will fill children with wonder and delight as long as there are people of good will on this planet.

    • May I ask Frank, how do you know these Santa’s are ‘obviously imposters’?
      Does this also mean, that there is only one ‘Joseph the carpenter’?so all other Joseph’s are obviously imposters?? Including my pop…

      I guess you don’t believe in anything.
      All these Santa’s were obviously good people, and may there be many more of them giving hope and happiness to the children the whole world over.

      My grandad was called Frank, I bet he was older than you, so are you real or an imposter?

      • I agree! Santa lives in all of us and (we hope) lives on in all future generations to come! We must take on the “role”..if we don’t, his spirit of giving and love will not live on as it does today! Great article!

    • They were not imposters. They were helpers who acted in the name of Santa in order to make children happy!

    • Ambrose Frank Santa was born 25 March 1919 in Quinton, Saskatchswan, Canada. He was KIA 8 July 1944. Serial number A/37860

  7. Thank you! I will share with my grandchildren when they tell me there is no Santa Claus

  8. Lovely article. Thank you. I am sending this to everyone in my local genealogy club.

  9. I want to thank you for this wonderful story on Santa. I tried to share and I have FB open using Safari, so when I try to post this to FB. I am told I need to choose a new password, why? Can I not share it on my Safari browse.

  10. Charles Howard from my town of Albion, NY, started a school for Santas in the late 1930s, and was the Macy’s parade Santa for many years. The school still exists in Michigan.

  11. We need these stories to give us hope that love and goodness can still prevail over the things we read about.
    Thank you.

  12. Thank you for a much needed revelation during these difficult COVID days. We need more Santa’s!

  13. Love these beautiful inspiring stories. It makes me hopeful, that the world will always have a special person to carry on the true magic of Christmas and the theme of giving. In this time we live, it seems people want to tear down all that we have believed in for our entire life, and erase history. Thanks you for these heartwarming stories, to give hope to future generations that , love, kindness, and giving will always exist.

  14. Thank you for sharing these marvelous stories. It is always heart lifting to hear of people helping other people.

  15. GREAT stories!!! I LOVE to learn something new everyday if possible & their stories not only did that for me but made me feel good 😊 too. Thank U for sharing them!🥰

  16. We lived in government housing when I was a little girl. One Christmas I got a 2 foot tall panda bear almost as big as me. I just knew there was a Santa because my Parents couldn’t afford a present so wonderful. Some how my Dad, going to school in the day and working at night, had saved and found a gift only a true Santa would leave for me. I will never forget that Christmas spirit my Dad had for his entire life. Linda

  17. ‘Find A Grave’, you are simply wonderful for sharing stories like this and thank you for ‘making my day’ today!

  18. There is an excellent movie on YouTube, “Christmas Story”, not be confused with the 1983 movie by the same name. This movie tells a wonderful story about Santa in Finland. I highly recommend it.

  19. Thank you for these lovely stories, and sharing the Memorials of these who have passed with their unique name. I know several people named Merry Christmas, Holly Berry, Sunday Easter, Jesus, Noelle and Snow.

  20. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the ‘Santa’ histories. Keep up the great work!

  21. Most interesting thanks for bringing this info to light and sharing these facts. I always enjoy learning about people, places and things from the past. Great way to start my day !

  22. Yes, I’m a huge Grinch, bah humbug! Maybe I don’t get out much, and I do occasionally miss a trick, but on which planet, please, is that a “Santa boot” on Jimmy Pace’s grave? It’s a cartoony representation, possibly ceramic, certainly ugly and undignified, of a cowboy boot.

    Who looked at this and thought, “Sure! Santa Claus!”? I have to question whether that person’s boss needs to have a chat with them.

  23. Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia (where I serve as a volunteer guide) is the final resting place of composer William Henry Fry, whose most famous work is “The Santa Claus Symphony”.

  24. Hello, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2021-2022. The happy age of 73, still I believe in Santa, Christmas Trees, happiness of the hopeful thought ‘Peace Around The World & Love In Every Ones Heart’. May all little children know this Story & Movies, Cards & Gift of Giving.
    Truely Thoughtful idea, Find A Grave

    • I, like Barbara, have always believed in Santa Claus. I’m 73 yrs. Young and always look in the sky to see if I see him. I will always believe and have great memories when my family was alive and the excitement we had! Thank you for sharing!

  25. Thank you for sharing these beautiful stories of caring and giving. It is very refreshing to hear of good will and love existing in the world, especially now. God bless and thank you again for sharing. Please keep them coming.

  26. We had a Mr & Mrs Santa Clause in our town for many years. The kids loved them. The funny thing about, or I think so anyway, is that their real names were Bert and Ernie.
    Love the web site. Thank you.

  27. Thank you so much for posting these great stories! It gives so many people hope & brings out love in all of us. I think God leads someone to put an comment like that here as He knows someone needs to read it!!! So thank you “find a grave” keep up the good work!!!!

  28. St Nicholas WAS a real man, and as long as we embrace his spirit, he will live forever in us. Just as all our ancestors live on through us. Christmas is a time for family, and love, and giving. My wish this Christmas is for all mankind to feel the love of their families and to be grateful for their time together.

  29. This year we visited the St. Nicholas church, where the original Santa was originally laid to rest in Turkey. Of course, most of his bones may now be in Bari Italy.

  30. I know of another Santa Claus we just had him buried at Forest Lawn cemetery Saginaw Michigan at the foot of his Beloved Parents his picture is on his headstone he loved everyone Especially Children often not cashing the checks that parents so humbly gave his name Is Robert Leroy Cobb Our very special friend

    • A side note Santa has his picture on his headstone with his Real hair mustache and beard and he’s with one of his reindeer‘s at Forest lawn‘s Saginaw Michigan

    • Just turned 70 and I am so glad I had a grandfather that loved life and children so much that he DIDN’T turn bitter against kindness and charity even though he was raised as a child slave, rented out to others by his mother from age 3.
      SCROOGE, I hope someday you too will find your heart soften. As I was told when I wanted to know if Santa is real the response was… AS LONG AS THERE ARE GROWNUPS THAT LOVE CHILDREN AND CHILDREN THAT BELIEVE IN SANTA, THERE WILL AWAYS BE A SANTA TO EMULATE THE GIVING HEART OF CHRIST LIKE ST. NICKOLAS. Happy Christmas Everyone, even you Scrooge!
      And thank you Find a Grave.

  31. I live near Santa Claus Indiana. they answer every letter sent to Santa Claus. pretty cool, with the postmark of Santa Claus, Indiana.

  32. I loved seeing Santa each year at the department store in town. And when I got older loved watching all the children waiting their turn like I had. But what Santa Clause instilled in me was what a wonderful feeling it was to give not just get. That’s the real gift.
    What a wonderful feeling.
    Thanks Santa(s) everywhere!

  33. Thank you so much for this, holidays can be a very sad time for me as most all of my close family have passed and i rarely spend holidays with anyone but my little God-send of a cat, “Cherry”.
    Reading this brought a bit of sunshine in and i am very greatful for the stories.
    Thank you so much,

  34. A wonderful uplifting story….biography of good thing in our culture. Thank you for sharing and thank you to all the contributors. Merry Christmas

  35. St Nicholas was never canonized, as there was no process of canonization at that time. Instead, there was a cult of popularity among the faithful. While not officially on the Roman Catholic Church liturgical calendar, his feast day is widely observed by many. He is officially venerated among Eastern Orthodox, and his feast is on their calendar. Many former Eastern Orthodox church’s reunited with Rome, but were permitted to keep their customs and liturgy, so Eastern Rite Catholics have St Nicholas on their liturgical calendar. For Roman Catholics, though not an official saint on the liturgical calendar, his feast day is traditionally observed privately by many of the faithful on December 6th. I certainly observe it. The French chocolatier, Rohan, makes a house-shaped Advent Calendar with two chimneys. The one for December 6 has a large chocolate St Nicholas figurine, while the one for December 25 has an equally large Santa Claus. The spirit of giving St Nicholas was known for, lives on in the modern day Santa Claus. We even refer to Santa Claus as St Nick.

  36. Thank you for sharing this story of Santa Clause! It was a joy to read and so are most of the comments. I’m going to pass along this article to some of my relatives, who may need reminding that love and giving still exists and we need to pass this on to our children. Thanks again.

  37. Actually there was no nation called Turkey when the Hellenic/ Greek Bishop Nicholas was born. But as to the man he had a great heart and gave presents to children from his own pocket. Hos red clothes etc and his white beard eventually morphed St Nicholas into Santa Claus. His body was stolen by Italians who reburied him in Italy in a very deep grave so he cannot be readily recovered… but that is another story

  38. When my children were small I would tell them the store Santa’s were the real Santa’s helpers. They would tell me there was no such man as Santa. I would ask them if they ever saw Jesus or God in the flesh. Of course they would answer “No”. I would remind them God is everywhere so therefore Santa is real too and be careful they just may meet Jesus and God someday just as they may meet the real Santa and everyone they meet should be treated with respect and love for it may be them.

  39. We thank all who carry on the tradition of Santa Clause down through the ages because of the joy, peace & hope they bring to a troubled world which is in so much need of these gifts. May the tradition never die.

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