Today is the 110 year anniversary of Jim Rielly’s birthday. Born in 1908, James (Jim) D. Rielly was a lifelong resident of Bristol Rhode Island. His love for country and community was immediately evident when you met him. In many ways, he was Bristol’s unofficial Ambassador. To paraphrase Yeats: There were no strangers to Jim Rielly; only friends he had not yet met.
Jim Rielly was well known throughout Rhode Island and much of New England for his generosity and countless charitable acts; but most notably, Jim Rielly was known as Rhode Island’s most famous Santa Claus.
His first appearance as Santa Claus was in 1927 at the beginning of the Great Depression. At the age of 19, the young Jim Rielly portrayed Santa Claus for a family living in an abandoned chicken coup. For the next 62 years, Jim Rielly would continue to appear as Santa Claus wherever he was needed, but primarily at charitable events, nursing homes, hospitals, orphanages, military bases, and private homes.
He took no payment for any of his appearances.
On January 31, 1979 he was entered into the United States Senate Congressional Record as “James D. Rielly – A truly remarkable Santa Claus from Rhode Island”. And on December 22, 2010, he was one of the inaugural inductees into the prestigious International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.
James D. Rielly died on November 26, 1991 at the age of 83.
In honor of his kindness and charitable works, the James D. Rielly Foundation was established to preserve his legacy by providing charitable support to the children and the families of military and first responders hindered by economic status, physical or mental challenges.
Please consider making a donation to the James D. Rielly Foundation. Your donation is 100% tax deductible and will help bring unconditional love, hope, and joy to needy children and families.