A Forest City man who resigned as Santa in the town’s Christmas house after apparently telling a 9-year-old boy to “lay off” the burgers and fries has been hospitalized since Wednesday with a blood clot in his lung, his niece says.
The man, Earl Crowder, woke up Wednesday with trouble breathing and was taken to a hospital, his niece, Kelly Butler, told television news station WLOS. He is still hospitalized, Butler said, but she didn’t say where.
“He was very heartbroken” after the incident with the boy, Butler told WLOS. “In fact, his first thoughts, he wanted to cut his hair and shave his beard.”
Butler also suggested that Crowder might have been in pain on Saturday when 9-year-old Anthony Mayse said Crowder told him to “lay off the hamburgers and French fries.”
His comments reached far beyond the town of roughly 7,500 about 65 miles west of Charlotte, being picked up by international news media.
Amid the negative press, Crowder resigned from his post as Santa and apologized to Anthony and the boy’s family.
Crowder had spent nearly a decade portraying St. Nicholas in the town’s Santa House and was known to buy toys for the needy and help out at nursing homes, Butler said.
The town has rallied around Crowder, and a Facebook page has been launched to show support for him.
The page was set up by local business owner Sunshine McCurry, who said she has known Crowder all her life.
Cards and letters to the shamed Santa can be dropped off at McCurry’s business, Iron/Ink Motorcycles and Tattoos, 109 U.S. 74 Business, Bostic, N.C., 28018.
Crowder was paid $1,000 per season to portray St. Nick at the town’s Thanksgiving night tree lighting ceremony, in the Christmas parade and for several weekends at the Santa House, City Manager John Condrey said in a statement this week.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi