His given name was Jack True Sr.
But folks will remember him as the Santa of Chapman Street, the kindly man who went all out for Christmas, stringing multicolored lights across his yard and roof, delighting kids with his fuzzy red suit and his ho-ho-ho's.True, 71, died at Moses Cone Hospital Thursday, three years after he was diagnosed with leukemia. He's survived by sons Jack True Jr. of Summerfield and Roger True of the legendary Chapman Street home.
Each year, True blanketed his home with every imaginable Christmas decoration - electric sleigh and reindeer, an electric holy choir, even electric loudspeakers blaring Elvis Presley's ``Blue Christmas.'
Then there was the Santa act, a role True relished for three decades. Roger True said his mom - the late Jettie True - came up with the idea in 1974. Jack True bought a $25 red suit and a cotton beard, then stood on South Chapman handing out candy canes.
In 1986, he upgraded to a $125 velvet suit from Sears.
He last dressed as Santa for Christmas 2000. Earlier that same Christmas season, True returned from a cancer treatment to find a box that came in the mail from an anonymous donor. It contained a $800 Santa suit with gold trim, ``just like the big-time Santas wear - you know, the rich ones,' Roger says.
Roger True said they're considering burying Jack in that suit - or at the very least draping it across the casket.
Either would be fitting, said Greensboro Mayor Keith Holliday, who grew up a few blocks from the Trues. Holliday said he often drove his daughter - the late Camberly Holliday - to visit the Santa of Chapman Street.
Holliday said True was one of those Greensboro treasures people sometimes take for granted.
``He was such an incredibly great asset for the city - doing this out of his own pocket, by the way. This was not government subsidized,' he said.
People contributed money to True's obsession, since the family had little money. Roger True said his dad lived off of a $475 monthly disability check, which he had received since he fell from a utility pole years ago while working for a telephone company.
Jack True rented the Chapman Street house until Valentine's Day 1982, after a citywide fund-raising campaign provided him $20,000 to buy it.
``We just felt he was doing so much for children with his various seasonal activities,' said Paul Marth, a Greensboro attorney who helped with the fund raising. ``We wanted to see if we could help him get this house.'
``He seemed to be, in his own simple way, an encouragement to folks. ... He was almost like a child.'
True loved and celebrated all holidays, not just Christmas. Halloween was his second favorite, since it allowed him to showcase his Elvira memorabilia. Elvira is the shapely horror-movie maven who bills herself as Mistress of the Dark. True paid $15.95 to join her fan club in the mid-1980s.
Soon after, he received a live-size cutout of the scantily clad spookster that became part of his outdoor Halloween ensemble.
Still, it was True's Christmas display that city residents savored. Each December, cars would line South Chapman and Walker Avenue so people could gawk and children could score candy.
In 1982, he already was thinking of a legacy to leave the city.
``I want to stay here til I'm dead and gone,' he told a columnist for the Greensboro Daily News. ``Then maybe one of my boys could take over for me, keep ol' Santy goin'.'
Roger True said somehow that doesn't seem right - one of the sons putting on a Santa suit and handing out candy. He said they'll continue the Christmas light display, but their sadness is too fresh to think beyond that.
He will add one outdoor decoration, though: A giant painting of his dad dressed as Santa, illuminated by a spotlight.
``I don't reckon nobody could get mad,' said Roger True.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at Hanes-Lineberry's North Elm Street chapel. Roger True said the family will hold a memorial service next week.\ \ Contact Margaret Moffett Banks at 373-7031 or email@example.com