CUMMING, GA — On Christmas Eve, a Dawsonville man known for portraying Santa for children was one of the latest casualties in Georgia of the coronavirus pandemic.
For more than three decades, Larry Kenneth Jones, 76, played the part of Santa in Cumming. On Dec. 24, a night he surely loved, he died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
Tributes to Jones' legacy flooded his online obituary, with Beth Sanderson writing, "Larry brought so much joy to children. This will be a special time of year each year as it is for my family. A time to reflect on the legacy he leaves. And the hope we have that we will see our loved ones again."
Born in 1944 to the late Ezra and Janie Bell Jones, Jones was a member of Lebanon Baptist Church in Dawsonville, according to an online obituary.
"After retiring from Chevron Oil of 25 years of service, he began to work for the Forsyth County Board of Education where he served 18 more years," the obituary reads. "Larry served his community and friends by being the local Santa for 33 years. He taught many young boys fishing and hunting skills throughout his years. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and friend to all. In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by his stepmother, Iva Jones."
Jones is survived by his wife of 52 years, Wanda, children Tyler (Missy) and Tyre (Jill) Jones. He also had five grandchildren, Kelsey, Bubba, Tucker, Aly, and Baby K; great grandchild, Natalie Paige; brothers-in-law, and sisters-in-law, Danny and Brenda Hill, Diane Burt, and Jackie Cowart; several nieces and nephews; along with many other loving relatives and friends.
A graveside service was held Tuesday at Lebanon Baptist Church in Dawsonville, with the Rev. Brandon Benefield officiating.
His daughter-in-law, Jill, told WSB-TV she considered Jones as more of a father, and made Christmas dreams come true for tens of thousands of Forsyth County families over the year.
"It did give us some peace, because it was his favorite time of year," Jill told WSB-TV. "For him to get to celebrate Jesus’s birthday in person — no one was more deserving."
More tributes poured in to the family via Jones' obituary.
Scott and Heather Harper wrote that, "to know what an impact you made on everyone you met shows the kind of man you were. My entire family is mourning the loss of this amazing man. Our prayers are with his family for strength during this difficult time, there just are not enough words. You will truly be missed Mr. Magic Man, and we find comfort in the fact that we will see you again!"
Ann Raines wrote that the officers and members of the Cumming Civitan Club expressed sympathy to Wanda and the rest of the Jones family.
"Larry, only known to us as Santa, brought Christmas joy and excitement to hundreds of special needs children at Cumming Civitan sponsored parties for Forsyth County elementary school special needs students," Raines wrote. "He was compassionate, caring and always unhurried talking with the children and for pictures with Santa. He will be greatly missed."
Forsyth Commissioner Cindy Mills expressed her sympathies.
"Heaven needed a Santa, and He called up a fine man for the job," Mills wrote.
To leave sympathies, visit Jones' online obituary page.