UPDATE: George Worcester, AKA Santa Claus, passed away on October 25, 2011 at the age of 81.

Santa Claus!

He may be closer than you think!

George Worcester of Lincoln is our latest Interesting Person. Whether you know George or not, you've undoubtedly seen him during the Christmas season. For most of the year, George is George, but from Thanksgiving to Christmas, he's Santa Claus!

UPDATE: George retired after the 2009 Christmas season. Was he THE real Santa Santa?.......well, he looked like him!

Lincoln News photo from 1993.

George's first Santa suit, purchased at LaVerdiere's, was made of thin red flannel and trimmed with felt. He's gone through several suits over the years. Eleanor made two of them herself, one from velour, and another from velvet. This past Christmas, George's children bought him a wonderful new Santa suit, trimmed with real fur.

George Worcester's first Santa Claus appearances were for his own children and grandchildren. By 1988, George was in demand wherever Santa was needed in the greater Lincoln area. His genuine love for children and jolly sense of humor made him a natural for the job. What clinched the deal was his real beard. George's wife, Eleanor, says that even when his beard hadn't turned completely white, kids were satisfied when they could tug on it without pulling it off. George's personification of Santa was so authentic that one of his grandsons was 8 years old before he realized that Santa was his grandfather!

Santa with Judy Wyman at the Lincoln Post Office in 1989.

Everyone wants to get into the act. Will the real Santa please step forward? This photo is from 2002.

At right: Santa at the Isaac Farrar Mansion in Bangor in 1995.

Over the years, Santa has visited at the Lincoln Post Office, the Isaac Farrar mansion in Bangor, senior citizens' dinners at the K of C Hall in Lincoln, Boy Scout Christmas parties, Colonial Health Care, Care Ridge in Lee, Lincoln Memorial Library Christmas parties, nursery schools, Wal-Mart and many other places. He enjoys visiting with area kids at the annual Breakfast With Santa. He also makes an appearance in the Christmas parade. Last Christmas he talked with children at the Lincoln Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce office as well.

Santa says most kids are very happy to see him. Once in awhile a little one will be frightened, but usually it doesn't take them long to decide that he's OK after all. Every child is special to Santa Claus - he loves each and every one. The kids who sat on his knee back in the beginning are now all grown up. Some may be bringing their own children to see Santa at Christmas time!

Nice suit, mister! Photo by Lee Rand, 2006

At right: Michelle Russell with Santa in 1991.

As you can well imagine, being Santa Claus takes dedication, and plenty of preparation. Santa shaves his beard every Christmas Eve, right after coming home from church.The next year, in late summer or early fall, Santa's beard starts growing again, so it will be just right for the Christmas season.

George needed some surgery on his face last year, but delayed the operation until after Christmas, as he was concerned that it might affect his beard. It wouldn't do to disappoint the children! He's planning a trip to Alaska to visit his daughter in August, and is trying to decide exactly when to begin growing Santa's beard this year.

Mrs. Santa received a new digital camera for Christmas, so we hope she'll share some photos of their Alaska trip when they get back home.

We'd like to thank Eleanor Worcester for sharing many of the photos she's collected over the years. She says there are lots more, but she put some of them into albums to share with their children.

At left: George's granddaughter invited him to a party in 2006. Everyone had a Santa hat for the occasion.

Below left: Santa with one of his reindeer.

Below right: Santa in one of his earlier suits, next to a Christmas tree in 2001.

Santa needs a pit stop once in awhile! Photo by Roger Stevens.

Santa in "civilian clothes" with a funny gift in 2002!

George and Eleanor keep an appointment book so they won't miss any of Santa's visits. Eleanor often goes with Santa. Sometimes she dresses up as Mrs. Santa, but only when she's sure no children will recognize her and guess Santa's identity. Santa accepts donations to cover his expenses, but doesn't ask for any set fee.

Photo by Lee Rand, 2006.

Santa's approaching 80, but he says, "Kids keep you young. I get a lot of satisfaction just seeing the smiles on the kids' faces. That's what makes it all worthwhile." He plans to keep being Santa as long as possible. We hope that's a very, very long time!

Photo at left was taken in 1990.

In case you're wondering what Santa does in the off-season, here he is admiring a loon from his back yard at the Little Narrows.

And of course Santa likes toys as much as the next kid. The sax-playing Santa at right was sent to him as a gift. Photos taken in April 2007 by Connie Rand.

As it's been said, "Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus!"

Here's a little information about his life that George shared with us:

George Worcester comes from a family of nine children. He was born in Millinocket, the youngest boy among the four boys and five girls. His sisters said, "He's so cute, but he's so naughty!". George left Millinocket when he was 15 or 16 and went to Caribou to pick potatoes. When he got there, he ended up driving a truck instead. He went back the next summer and stayed there until he went in the Navy. In 1946, he was sent to Guam, where some Japanese soldiers were still hiding in the jungle. Once he was checking the level of gas in a tank and bullets started to fly! He was in Guam for 18 months.

When he got out of the Navy, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do. He hung around the garage his brothers had started (Worcester Brothers), and his brother Don said that if he was going to be there anyway, he should get to work. After another trip to The County, he began working at Worcester Brothers as a mechanic, eventually moving to refrigeration and heating. George has retired from working at Worcester Brothers, but not from being Santa Claus!