The Associated Press has reported that Larry Stewart, Missouri’s own Secret Santa, has succumbed to cancer at the age of 58.
Stewart had recently become famous for his good deeds, which consisted mainly of handing out money anonymously on the streets during the frigid holiday season. It is said that over twenty-six years, Larry Stewart parted with over $1.3 million, enriching the lives of those less fortunate. His goals were simple: To help people, and hopefully inspire other random acts of kindness.
Larry Stewart, the Secret Santa, made his fortune in cable television and long-distance television services.
This modern-day anti-Scrooge began giving away money in 1979, long before he made his millions. At a drive-in restaurant, upset at having been fired a week before Christmas, he saw a carhop shivering in the cold with only a lightweight jacket. “I thought to myself, ‘I think I got it bad. She’s out there in this cold making nickels and dimes.'” Stewart handed the carhop twenty bucks and insisted she keep the change.
Subsequently, Larry Stewart became Missouri’s own Secret Santa, handing out hundreds on the cold city streets. In addition to handing out money, he contributed to numerous community causes in Kansas City and Bruce, Mississippi, his hometown.
Larry Stewart gained worldwide fame only this past November when he revealed that he was the Secret Santa, hoping that the international attention and his celebrity would bring inspiration to more would-be Secret Santas around the globe.
This past December, Larry Stewart gave away a whopping one hundred thousand dollars between Chicago and Kansas City. He also trained four more Secret Santas, who gave away another sixty-five grand.
The uniqueness of his gifts was not lost on Larry Stewart. It meant more because it was something people didn’t have to “beg for, get in line for, or apply for.”
The AP reports that according to longtime friend, Jackson County Sheriff Tom Phillips, Larry Stewart, the Secret Santa, passed away from complications from esophageal cancer. Larry Stewart had been diagnosed with cancer in April, and fought the disease for just over eight months.
Today the old adage, only the good die young, truly applies. It is hoped that Larry Stewart’s passing will bring many to recall his life, and inspire more of the random acts of kindness for which Missouri’s Secret Santa was known. He was a kind man long before he made his fortune, and he proved that anyone, rich or otherwise, can help those less fortunate. He will be remembered in the State of Missouri and well beyond.