North Carolina town's longtime Santa Claus dies from COVID-19

LINCOLNTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- A small North Carolina town will be a little less cheery this Christmas.

Wreaths and lights are hanging downtown, but one staple of the holiday season in Lincolnton won't be there. James Helms, the town's longtime Santa Claus impersonator, has died from COVID-19. Generations of children in Lincoln County loved visiting "Santa Jim," as he was affectionally known, in downtown Lincolnton.

"This is not going to be a regular Christmas this year for many reasons," Lincolnton Mayor Ed Hatley told WBTV. "But one of those reasons is that we're not going to have Jim to play Santa Claus."

Helms posted on Facebook in October about his COVID-19 diagnosis. He passed away last weekend.

Hatley said Helms' death serves as a reminder of the severity of COVID-19 and how important it is for everyone to be cautious.

"It's so important to be aware of COVID and what all it can do to you," Hatley said. "By wearing a simple face mask, staying six feet apart, washing your hands. That's what we need to do."

Lincolnton is holding a drive-by Christmas parade in an effort to celebrate safely.
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