CHICAGO — Santa C. Claus, who officially changed his name and played that part for children and the elderly full time for nearly two decades, was found dead Monday. He was 58 and the cause of his death was not reported.
Claus changed his name from LeRoy Scholtz five years ago in a New Jersey court. He lived in a red and white house in North Pole, N.Y., near Lake Placid, where he had worked at a theme park called Santa's Workshop from 1970 to 1979. Claus spent most of his time traveling and making appearances as Santa. He also worked on a bank promotion and was filming a video cassette to be shown next year.
Claus, who was found dead at the Talbott Hotel, had arrived in Chicago on Dec. 9 and was to work in the area through January, said Dick Kutok, president of Geoquest Productions.
"I knew him for seven years," said Kutok, who had hired Claus for a series of promotions and advertising spots. "He was probably the most giving person you ever met in your life."
Betty Johnson, Claus' sister, said in a telephone interview that her brother had experienced chest pains two weeks ago.
"He added a lot to this world and he will be missed."
"He believed that the greatest gift of all was love," said Kutok. "He had made appearances all over the country and was known all over the world."