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Memorial Set For San Francisco’s ‘Santa John’

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Santa John Toomey seen a decade ago as Macy's Santa (CBS)

Santa John Toomey seen a decade ago as Macy’s Santa (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A longtime San Francisco Santa Claus will receive a final sendoff this week as friends and fans come together to celebrate his life.

Lefty O’Doul’s will host “an Irish wake befitting ‘Santa’ John Toomey” on Friday that will include food and music, restaurant spokesman Lee Houskeeper said.

Toomey, 69, was found dead in his residential hotel room last Friday afternoon. The cause of his death has not yet been determined. Toomey, known as “Santa John,” was the longtime Santa at Macy’s Union Square before being let go last December for telling dirty jokes to adult patrons.

Lefty O’Doul’s quickly hired Toomey, whose story made national news and earned him an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

>>Photo Gallery: ‘Santa John’

Although Toomey didn’t have any family in the region, he became close with a number of news reporters in the area, some of whom will play music at his memorial, Houskeeper said.

Barry “The Fish” Melton of the band Country Joe and the Fish will also be at O’Doul’s to celebrate Toomey’s life.

In Irish fashion, the fare will include corned beef and plenty of beer.

The San Francisco Firefighters’ Toy Program will be collecting toys at the event, which begins at 5:30 p.m.

Houskeeper encourages residents to “come on down, bring a present.”

With Toomey’s help, O’Doul’s boosted its annual Christmas Eve toy drive total from 9,000 toys in 2009 to 15,000 last year.

Since Toomey’s death, parents have sent letters to Lefty O’Doul’s stating they are concerned their children will now think Santa is dead.

To keep his legend alive, Houskeeper said that at the memorial, Lefty O’Doul’s will display the throne Toomey sat in while playing Santa with a banner above it that reads, “Santa John’s gone to the North Pole.”

The 11th Annual San Francisco Firefighters Toy Drive this holiday season will also be dedicated to Toomey.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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