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Ocean City Mourns Death of “Official Santa”

JT Williams portrays Santa during Ocean City's 2022 Christmas Parade.


Joseph T. “JT” Williams Jr. was an entrepreneur, a salesman and a realtor who was loved by his family and friends in his hometown of Ocean City.

Although Williams did many things, he will perhaps be most remembered for the role he played in bringing delight to countless children over a span of 23 years – as the city’s “official Santa.”

He passed away June 16, surrounded by family. He was 73.

For the many visitors and residents who have attended Ocean City’s Christmas parades, the “Christmas in July” events on the Boardwalk and the many appearances in between, Williams was always at the center of the joy.

“We are saddened to hear that JT has passed. We really will miss him. He was an ambassador for us. He always had a nice smile,” said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce. “He was kind to people. He was always looking after other people’s needs. He always remembered everyone’s name, every child. He had a heart full for children and the elderly.”

Children would follow his horse-drawn carriage in the annual holiday parade down Asbury Avenue – chanting “Santa” as Williams waved and flashed a wide and warm smile.

During the “Christmas in July” celebrations on the Boardwalk, Williams would be front and center. He would opt for Hawaiian-style attire over his Santa suit, and always was available to sit with children in an Ocean City lifeguard boat for photo ops.

Children pose with Santa for holiday photos.

Although Williams was not the first Santa hired by Ocean City — he was the second — he was the one who remained the face of Christmas for Ocean City for 23 years.

“We have thousands of photos of JT with kids and families,” Gillian noted.

In 2017, Williams spoke to OCNJDaily.com while in his role as Santa for the Christmas in July celebration on the Boardwalk.

Children formed long lines at the Music Pier just to have their picture taken with Santa.

“I love Ocean City. I’m new to surfing, and the waves here are just big enough for me. The town is perfect for vacations. The people are so friendly,” he said with a dose of humor in 2017 while portraying Santa.

Santa noted that Mrs. Claus was also vacationing in Ocean City. She was spending most of her time on the beach and baking cookies, Santa said.

But what about Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer?

“They are still at the North Pole. The reindeer don’t like the heat,” Santa said in the interview during Christmas in July.

JT Williams “Santa” is joined by some of his admirers on the Boardwalk for Christmas in July.

Williams is survived by five sisters and two brothers, 21 nieces and nephews and many great nieces and nephews, according to his obituary.

Gillian spoke of Williams’ devotion to his family.

“He had a large family in the Pennsylvania area and a lot of nephews and nieces,” she said. “He would leave from Christmas Eve and go to celebrate the holiday with them. He was very proud of his family.”

In addition to helping the city and its tourists and residents celebrate the magic of the Christmas holiday, whether in November or December or during the July event, he brought cheer to children at three Ocean City churches over the holiday season.

“He did a lot of good things,” Gillian added. “JT will certainly be missed.”

Joseph JT Williams was known by his loved ones as Joe, Joey and JT, which stood for “Just Terrific,” according to his obituary.

“Just Terrific” seemed to sum up how people felt about him.

In his obituary, his family wrote that “he lived life to the fullest.”

“Every day he blessed each of us with glimpses into all of the marvel and excitement that this world has to offer. A hard-working and dedicated man, every relationship he had was cultivated with genuine care and every interaction full of life and love. A contagious personality that attracted people to his energy, JT “Just Terrific” Williams is an irreplaceable soul in the lives of those who knew him.”

Relatives and friends are invited to his visitation Thursday, June 22, from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, 40th Street and Asbury Avenue in Ocean City, immediately followed by his funeral mass.

His burial will be private and at a later date.

His family said that in lieu of flowers, and “to continue bringing light around Christmas time as he did,” memorial contributions can be made to https://www.toysfortots.org/.

Share memories at www.DiGiacomoFuneralHome.com.

Dressed as Santa, JT Williams greets children during Miracle in the Downtown in November of 2022 at Mark Soifer Park.