The late Jim Wilson A SENSE of deep sadness emanated throughout Dingle last Monday as news came from America that Main Street's Jim Wilson had passed away in Florida.
A true character, full of vigour and spirit, US native Jim had resided in Dingle up until two years ago when he and his wife Mary (nee Devane) retired to the United States.
It is understood that Jim passed away in Florida in the early hours of Monday morning.
With his white beard and jolly demeanour, Jim was an instantly recognisable character and came to prominence as one of the most active members of the community in Dingle.
In his work with the Tidy Towns committee, Jim would patrol the streets on a daily basis, wearing a high-vis jacket with the words 'can I help you' on the back, always offering help and advice to passing tourists.
Jim was also actively involved in a number of local initiatives including the Dingle Business Chamber's 'shop-local' campaign and the long battle to have the names of 'Dingle and Daingean Uí Chúis' reinstated after the controversial Placenames Order changed the town's name to An Daingean.
However it was probably in his role as Santa Claus that he is most fondly remembered.
Every Christmas, Jim would take to the streets, delighting children, and indeed all who encountered him, with his unrestrained sense of joy and his relentless enthusiasm.
He visited the hospital, schools and attended every event he could in an effort to spread as much Christmas cheer as possible.
In fact, he often stood at the roundabout at the end of Bridge Street, dressed in full Santa-regalia, ringing a bell and welcoming everyone to town for Christmas.
Jim was great friends with former TD Jackie Healy-Rae, who described him this week as "a born gentleman".
"I am so sorry to hear this news and want to extend my heartfelt sympathies to Mary, his family and relatives," said Jackie.
"He was a great friend of mine."
Kerry South Deputy Michael Healy-Rae TD added that Jim Wilson was "the best Santa Claus in Ireland."
"We all enjoyed his company and we missed him greatly when he and Mary went to America," he said.
"He was so likeable and loveable; no man was better suited to the job of Santy and all the young lads were mad about him."
Richard Williams of Dingle Tidy Towns spoke about Jim's immense effort in ensuring Dingle looked its best at all times.
"We are so sad to hear of Jim's passing; his contribution to Dingle, and to the Tidy Towns effort, was immense," said Richard.
"He was full of life and was never afraid to voice his opinion.
"If more people were like him we would have a much better sense of community spirit here in Dingle," he said.
"He was a great character and the work he carried out during his years in Dingle will not be forgotten," Cllr Seamus Cosai Fitzgerald said.
"He was very interested in the development of the town and he always worked towards the betterment of his community," he said.
"Jim will be truly missed and we all extend our heartfelt wishes to his wife Mary, his family and relatives."