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Remembering a jolly old soul
Fred Schoppet
For more than four decades Newman resident Fred Schoppet has been delighting people of all ages as Santa Claus (Photo contributed).

Newman resident Fred Schoppet, lovingly known as "Santa Claus" to many — not only on the westside, but also those who visited downtown Turlock during the holidays —  brought joy and delight to countless lives for 42 years with his jolly spirit, infectious smile, and a heart full of love, passed away on June 4, in Modesto, at the age of 68.

Schoppet’s journey as Santa Claus began humbly when a Christian youth group approached him to play Santa for a visit to seniors.

“I said yes, but I didn’t have any idea how to be Santa,” Schoppet recalled in a previous interview. “I did what you did back then when you didn’t know something — I went to the library and got some books on how to be Santa.”

From that moment on, Schoppet found his calling. Each Christmas, he donned the red suit with increasing joy, ready to spread holiday cheer and make every child feel special and loved. His ability to connect with children and make them feel cherished was truly remarkable. Schoppet’s warmth and genuine care left lasting impressions, creating lifelong memories for countless children and families.

Schoppet’s commitment to his role as Santa Claus extended beyond individual encounters. He always made time for organizations close to his heart, including those supporting veterans, military personnel, and individuals with autism. His selflessness and generosity knew no bounds, and his dedication to these causes reflected his deep love for his community.

Schoppet recounted many of the memories he made as Santa in his memoir “Santa CONFREDENTIAL.” Told through an assortment of short stories, Schoppet shared the details of what goes on behind the scenes at the North Pole, and how he began to play Santa Claus professionally.

“The tall tales in this storybook are factual,” Schoppet said previously. “They’re a compilation of over four decades (geez, can that be right?), during which I’ve cheerily represented the jolly ol’ elf himself. My hope is that these pages of actual anecdotes (a.k.a. Schoppet’s Snippets) will harken you back to the heavenly innocence of your own childhood—when Santa was indeed very, very real. Who knows? Maybe this’ll give you cause for pause to rethink your position today. Come join me; together, we can skip on down memory lane. It may be paved now, but it’s still the best place to meander.”

Born Frederick Charles Schoppet on Oct. 26, 1956, in Camden, New Jersey, Schoppet was the eldest of six children. He grew up as a devoted son and a cherished big brother, setting an example of love and care for his siblings Nancy, Dawn, David, Ken, and Brian. His pride in his New Jersey roots, his love for the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies, and his role as a fur-dad to several rescue animals were all integral parts of his vibrant personality.

Schoppet’s life was filled with diverse experiences and passions. He sang the National Anthem at several ballparks around Central California, worked at Swamp Rats Shooting Range, and pursued a career in hospitality management after attending Paul Smith College in Syracuse, New York. After moving to California, he managed several restaurants in the San Jose/Saratoga areas, worked for Verizon in Sonoma, and even ran for local city council, demonstrating his commitment to community service.

Schoppet’s love for being involved with youth was evident in all he did. He was a mentor, a friend, and a source of inspiration for many young people. His dedication to creating joyful experiences and his unwavering support for various youth programs left an indelible mark on everyone he encountered. Whether it was coaching, volunteering, or simply lending a listening ear, Fred’s influence reached far and wide, fostering a sense of belonging and encouragement in the hearts of many.

Schoppet is survived by his mother Verbena (88) and father George (94), his beloved wife of 16 years, Sandy, sons Jonathon and Patrick, daughter Alison Rose, stepdaughters Kim and Nicki, sisters Nancy and Dawn, brothers David, Ken, and Brian, as well as 4 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.