Rich Howells

Lew Williamson, kindly Santa in Scranton’s annual Santa Parade, has died after COVID-19 battle

Lew Williamson, kindly Santa in Scranton’s annual Santa Parade, has died after COVID-19 battle
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Lewis “Lew” Williamson, the Scranton resident who played Santa Claus in every Santa Parade in downtown Scranton since 1993, has passed away from COVID-19.

The sad news was confirmed by his wife Maureen Williamson in a public Facebook post on Jan. 4, just over a week after Christmas.

“With my heart broken, I have to say the we lost Lew tonight! He fought a really hard fight, but COVID won! He truly was my other half! Thank you to everyone for your kind words and the unbelievable amount of prayers that have been given to us over this past month! Santa will surely be missed and nobody will ever take his place! Please stay safe!” she wrote.

Today, the Santa Parade also made a public post remembering him and his commitment to the role:

The Santa Parade Board of Directors is sad to learn that Lew Williamson lost his month-long battle with COVID and died on Monday, January 4, 2021. Lew played the role of Santa in the annual Scranton Santa Parade since the parade started in 1993. We send our condolences to the Williamson family.

Anyone who has attended a Scranton Santa Parade or saw one on television knows the immense excitement and joy which Lew brought to the parade and especially to the children who lined the streets of Scranton to catch a glimpse, get a picture, or hand him a letter (to which he sent each writer a response). Lew immersed himself into his role each year and made sure that he had the most amazing Santa suit, photographs of the reindeer, and a “Santa” drivers’ license. He even had Mrs. Claus and several elves accompany him to the parade each year. He truly made the magic of Christmas come alive and the memories he created for so many will last a lifetime. To many of us in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Lew is the true Santa. He will be greatly missed!

A massive outpouring of social media comments and pictures show just how much this kind white-bearded man was like Kris Kringle, appearing as Santa at The Mall at Steamtown as well as many homes and parties to make children truly believe in the jolly old elf for years to come. Williamson was 76, and he will be missed by family, friends, and the many strangers who only knew him as the “real” Santa Claus. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

The 2020 Santa Parade was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused 272 deaths out of 9,452 total cases in Lackawanna County (8,285 confirmed and 1,167 probable cases), according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

See NEPA Scene’s photos of the 2014 Santa Parade here.

Photos by Keith Perks/1120 Studios/NEPA Scene