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INDIANAPOLIS — One of Santa’s most beloved helpers in Indiana has passed away. For many local Hoosiers, visiting Indy Santa Fred became a holiday tradition. In fact, he was so popular that he was already putting people on a waitlist for appearances for next year.

“He just radiated love, and even adults would have big smiles on their faces when he walked into the room,” said Santa Fred’s wife, who goes by Mrs. Indy Santa Fred. “His beard is absolutely perfect for Santa Claus. I said you were born to play Santa because of the way your beard looks. We have gone to nursing homes with Alzheimer’s patients, and they react to him. You could feel the magic when you met him, and that’s the truth.”

His last public appearance was actually on FOX59 in October. Shortly after that he fell ill and passed away from septic shock. His wife believes the complication rose from a kidney issue. His death hit the Irvington community hard as people began posting tributes on social media. One woman came up with the idea to plant a Christmas tree in his honor.

“When she suggested that, all of a sudden there was a chorus of voices saying wouldn’t that be great way to honor him?” said Stan Denski, a former Irvington Community Council member who is part of a group of people organizing the tribute push.

He says children will be able to decorate it every year. So far, a tree has been donated, and the idea is now on the Irvington Community Council’s agenda for January. They are now looking for places to put it, along with an accompanying plaque.

“I didn’t realize he touched so many people’s lives,” smiled Mrs. Indy Santa Fred.

Another area Santa, who is a good friend of Indy Santa Fred’s, is currently fulfilling some of Fred’s bookings. He plans to donate all of the money from the appearances to Fred’s wife.

“I move forward with my faith in God, that’s what is keeping me going right now,” said Mrs. Indy Santa Fred, wiping back a tear. “Maybe we can all put that to use, showing love and compassion and kindness for others.”

“There are people that we both know, if everyone was like this guy, the world would be better,” added Denski. “That was my impression of Fred.”

Santa Fred was commonly seen in Zionsville as well. His wife says the city is in the process of preparing a tribute too, however it is only in the planning stages.