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Community holds candlelight vigil for Tucson's Santa

Posted at 10:11 PM, Dec 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-28 18:50:39-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — On what would’ve been the 50th anniversary of Miracle on 31st Street, the community is mourning the event’s founder Ramon Gonzales.

Outside of the house that started it all in South Tucson candles were lit while those touched by Gonzales shared stories about his generosity.

Gonzales passed away just a week before Christmas from COVID-19.

“It's unreal like somebody that's a big influence inspiration to a lot of people. An icon to a lot of--A hero, a Santa Claus, you name it, Ramon was it. To lose somebody like that is more than a loss. It's heartache It's heartbreak. It hurts your soul,” said Suavecito Martinez.

Over the last eight years, Martinez helped Gonzales with the event that gave thousands of Tucson kids, like himself, a Christmas they might not have had otherwise.

“You name it, Ramon had it out here -- balloons, games, presents, food. It was something that made Christmas, without it a lot of us wouldn't have had it.”

Even in his final moments, Gonzales explained Ramon’s thoughts were with the kids.

“His last words to me were, ‘Merry Christmas to all the kids,’" said Martinez.

Martinez and other community members hold on to those words tight and plan to keep the legacy alive.

“Ramon’s Miracle on 31st it will continue,” he said.

He also wants the community to know that COVID-19 is real.

“Mask up. Do take all the protocols to prevent COVID-19 because it literally takes lives. People suffer from it. Even if you're even if you do survive it or you do have it, there are people that cannot survive it. Unfortunately, Ramon was one of them.”