Person of the Week: Joel "Joe" Florida, Flint's Santa passes away

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FLINT (WJRT) (04/06/18) - Whether he was spreading Christmas cheer or spreading smiles as a Shrine Circus clown, Joel Florida -- better known as Joe -- was always all about the kids.

"They call me Captain Fuzz. I have no idea why," Florida told ABC12, back in 2009.

Florida passed away April 5 at the age of 74. He was known best from his nearly 60 years of volunteering with the Old Newsboys of Flint, raising money and making sure every child received a gift under the tree.

"He was there at a moments notice and he was the face of Flint," said Old Newsboys Executive Director Chris Hamilton.

Florida received holiday assistance from the Newsboys himself growing up. To show his gratitude, he began sweeping floors as a teenager at their office until he was old enough to become a Newsboy himself.

"That was the kind of person Joe was. He never forgot," said Hamilton.

In 2008, Priority Children honored him with a Children's Champion Award.

"My reward has already been given to me, just by the smiles of children that I've seen on their faces and just being able to serve," Florida said at the time.

Former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling looks back fondly on Florida's many years a Flint Police officer.

"I always thought of him as Officer Florida. When I saw Officer Florida, your spirits just lifted. He had the smile. He cared about you and wanted to know what was going on and always wanted to know how could he help," said Walling.

That help came out every year during door to door deliveries, as an official Santa for the city of Flint.

"There's no higher office than being Santa Claus. I know there's a very special place for Joe Florida up there and we miss him deeply down here," said Walling.

"Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas everyone. Thank you again from Santa and I'll look forward to seeing you again on Christmas morning," Florida told ABC12 during the 2009 Old Newsboys Paper Sale drive.

Visitation for Joel Florida is Friday until 8 p.m. and Saturday from noon until 7 p.m. A funeral service is scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m., all at Swartz Funeral Home in Mundy Township.

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