Tributes for Santa Fred Francklin

Fred Francklin, a man who dedicated almost a decade to being Santa Claus at Longbeach Mall, has died.

Fred Francklin, the beloved Father Christmas of Longbeach Mall, has died.

Mr Francklin, 82, donned the iconic red suit for nearly a decade and brought smiles to the faces of countless children.

He suffered from emphysema for many years before dying of a heart attack at his Sunnydale home on New Year’s Eve, Sunday December 31.

He was a father of four to Brett, Keith, Sandy, and Shelly and married to Elizabeth Francklin, his childhood sweetheart from the age of 14.

Speaking to the Echo, Sandy, said it had been through his granddaughter, Danielle Francklin, that he had taken on the role of Santa.

“In 2014, Danielle was working in the children’s play park at the mall when she heard of the need for a new Father Christmas. Encouraging her grandfather to embrace the role, he took on the mantle, bringing joy to countless children each holiday season until 2023. He captured the hearts of thousands of people,” Sandy said.

Committed to this role, Mr Francklin, with his natural white beard, kept every letter the children wrote to him.

Born on October 27, 1941, Fred, or “Grumpy” as Danielle affectionately called him, lived a life filled with love, laughter, and adventure, according to Sandy.

“He was not just a festive figure but a pillar of strength for his family and friends. He loved and lived for his family,” Sandy said.

Aside from his role as Father Christmas, Mr Francklin worked for many years as a firefighter at several fire stations across the peninsula, where he was known as the tallest firefighter in the brigade.

“He said that his head touched the ladder on the fire truck,“ Sandy said.

His love for the outdoors extended to camping, fishing, and diving.

A skilled diver himself, he passed on his passion to both his sons, who later became commercial divers.

The mall’s marketing manager, Minnin du Preez, expressed sadness at Mr Francklin’s death.

“He played an essential role in our Christmas season, bringing joy to our customers, especially the children, who eagerly awaited his arrival for the annual photos by the Christmas tree,” she said.

“Fred embraced his role with unwavering dedication, engaging with children about their wishes. His absence will be deeply felt by all of us at the mall.”

The mall’s Facebook post announcing his death has already drawn more than 12 000 views and over 50 comments.

Belinda Lister expressed regret for not taking a photo with him and her one-year-old in December. “What a wonderful man he must have been to give of himself so unconditionally,” she said.

Simbarashe Chirimambowa wrote: “Very sad, hey. I walked past him just before Christmas and gave my little one time marvelling at him as kids took turns for photos with him. What a humble man he was. A sweet general greeting and a penetrating smile I got from him.”

Ronell Sheldon Coulson said: “My daughter, Christina, 5, took a picture with him and had a delightful conversation. He was incredibly kind and friendly. We shared a laugh because she made sure he had her correct address and hadn’t forgotten any of her wishes. Later, when we picked up the photo, Christina went back to remind him. He was gentle and friendly, listened attentively, and reassured her that he knew exactly where everyone lived.“