ALBION, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — A portion of NYS Route 31 between Transit Road and Wood Road in Albion has now been dedicated as the "Charles W. Howard Memorial Highway."
Since it is a state road, the change was approved by the New York State Legislature and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
NYS Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) and NYS Senator Robert Ortt (R-Lockport) co-sponsored the legislation and attended the dedication.
"He is someone who epitomizes what goodness and being with family is all about," said Assemblyman Hawley.
"He was really the standard for Santa Claus," added NYS Senator Ortt.
Howard's granddaughter sent the following statement to 7 Eyewitness News:
“ Our Grandfather was born and raised in Albion as were his ancestors. Thru-out his life he remained passionate to the area with his farming, charity work, and dream of the Santa Claus School and Christmas Park.
Grandpa was a humble man of little means but a big heart and a giving, caring soul.
To see him honored on his beloved trail to and from the town our family still today cherishes, is a great privilege.
On behalf of the Charles W. Howard Family we would like to thank the local citizens, Betterment committee members, local assemblyman, state legislature, and Governor for their work to preserve Grandpas Heritage.
We are most appreciative.”
Jane Holland(Charles W. Howard’s Granddaughter)
Charles Howard had been a farmer for most of his life in Albion but was unhappy with the way people were portraying Santa Claus.
In 1937, he opened the world's first Santa School that taught hundreds of Santa helpers how to look, dress, and act like the "Jolly Old Elf" for children.
Howard had such a profound influence on the portrayal of Santa Claus that he helped consult with the holiday classic movie "Miracle on 34th Street" in 1947.
From 1948 until 1965, Howard was also the main Santa Claus for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
The Santa School in Albion thrived for decades and also included a Christmas-themed park.
After Howard died in 1966, the school was moved in 1968 to Michigan where it continues in operation under the name "Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School."
Howard is also a charter member of the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.
Besides the road dedication, there are discussions underway in Albion about putting up a bronze statue and opening a museum in his honor.