GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - For years, the Gaston Mall was home to the "Real Santa".
He was famous for decades for being the guy that looked the most like the part and played the most like the part. It was truly in his heart.
But sometimes, Santas can't stay around forever, or maybe they can?
Seven years ago, the real Santa got sick and lost his hair. Come Christmas time, it was a devastating blow for the man who thrived on bringing the joy of the North Pole to children.
That year was the first time in decades, he couldn't play the part.
"That Christmas he was kind of down so I took his suit and come out with it on and it really picked him up," said Rick Franklin.
Franklin gets emotional about the way his father reacted to seeing him in his Santa suit. From then on out, he carried on his father's legacy and continues to this day, to bring joy to hundreds of children and even some adults.
It's almost hard to reveal what happened to the "Real Santa", sometimes some things are better left unsaid.
"I dressed up as Santa and went to the nursing home where he was. To see the joy on his face and for him to tell people, that's my son," Rick said.
Rick still wears the same suit his father wore for so many years, all the way down to the boots.
It's safe to say, the "Real Santa" is up in the North Pole as proud as can be of the legacy he left behind.