Story originally from AZ Central by Jana Bommersbach
Not a wanna-be, fake-beard imposter, Paul Raines was the real thing, who embodied the spirit and soul of the Jolly Ole Elf.
Just ask the thousands of Valley children who grew up delighted with his annual “Ho, ho, ho.” Or all the adults whose smiles were just as big.
It’s not just us mourning the passing of this wonderful man.
There’s also nurses and doctors who watched him magically help children in pain. There’s counselors and shelter workers who saw battered and homeless children react to him with trust and love. And when corporations and resorts bragged that “Santa is coming to town,” they meant Santa Paul.
It all started in 1972 when Paul’s church asked him to play Santa. He was beardless in those days and had to rent a suit. Then a friend at work wanted an at-home visit for his kids. The next year came the same requests, and Paul was hooked.
He grew a beard and studied under Arizona’s iconic Santa of the 1970s and 80s, the late Joe Greenawalt. He founded Santa Claus and Co., which employs real-bearded Santas, women portraying Mrs. Claus and little people who appear as Elves.