Photo: Marietta Square Branding Project
Photo: Marietta Square Branding Project

Marietta’s Santa Claus calls off 2019 visit to care for son battling illness

The longtime Santa Claus who has become a well-known figure around Marietta will not make the trip from the North Pole this year to celebrate Christmas with families.  

Lamar May, affectionately known as Santa Lamar, has called off his plans to portray the jolly old elf so he can take care of the medical needs of his son, Derek, 45.

May said his son is battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a condition in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. In the spring, Derek May’s cancer became more aggressive and he entered the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for treatment. Lamar May, who is in Houston with his son, said doctors hope to perform a stem cell transplant in November.  

“Right now, he’s doing good,” May said of his son.  

May has served as Santa Claus for 17 years and many in Marietta have become attached to him and consider him a family friend, according to Stephanie Coston, operations director for Marietta Square Branding Project, the company that organizes Winter Wonderland where Santa makes his appearances. She said the company is still devastated to see him go on a hiatus.  

“Our hearts are really breaking for him,” Coston said. 

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Residents and visitors are encouraged to drop off gifts and letters of support to May at Church Street Market at 65 Church Street in Marietta.

On the first Friday of the month through December, there will be T-shirts and buttons for sale during Marietta Art Walk to benefit the May family. You can also purchase these items throughout December at the Marietta Welcome Center at 4 Depot Street. Adult T-shirt sizes are $20 and $15 for youth.

If you’d rather make a financial contribution, you can visit the online Paypal account titled Historic Marietta Square Branding Project, Inc. to make your donation.

Beginning Friday, a Santa mailbox will be set up in the alcove at Church Street Market to collect your letters. Anyone who wants to send checks or gift cards to the Mays can drop them off in person.

May, a Cobb resident, said he has been “humbled” by the support from Marietta residents.

“It’s humbling and makes you feel really good to know that you’ve touched families and children’s lives that way,” he said.

Coston said Andy Bray has “graciously” chosen to step in as Santa Claus on days when May will be unavailable. May said he’s hoping to return to play Santa in 2020 if the stem cell therapy helps with his son’s treatment. Coston also said she believes the Marietta community will step up and take care of the man who became an important part of their holiday seasons.

“He’s just a great guy,” she said of May. “He still has a wonderful, positive outlook on how this all will go.”  

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