Rhinebeck – Harry LeRoy Turra, 89, passed away Friday, May 29, 2020, at Archcare at Ferncliff Nursing Home, Rhinebeck.
Born July 24, 1930, at St. Luke’s Hospital, Utica, NY, he was the son of Harry J. and Lorine M. (Fallon) Tuura.
Harry lived most of his young life in Utica and was a graduate of Utica Free Academy in 1951. He served in the US Navy Seabees as a steel construction woker from September 3, 1946 to September 29, 1949.
Harry returned to Utica and worked as a Patrolman for Utica City Police Department, eventually being promoted to Captain in 1965. After retirement, he was head of security for Howland Steinbach Stores in Utica; and later worked for Dressbarn Stores as head of construction; he traveled to various states to set up new stores.
He met Lorraine Peterson in 1977 while traveling for work and they were married on December 30th, 1979. After living in various places, they settled in Rhinebeck, NY where Harry worked for Williams Lumber for many years; he was well known as “Hardware Harry” and later as the infamous Santa Clause.
He was not only Santa at Williams Lumber but also throughout the community for Christmas Parades, holiday parties, Christmas tree lightings, appearing at the Chamber of Commerce booth with Mrs. Santa, nursery schools, and ultimately was portrayed in the infamous Santa Clause drawing by artist James Gurney in 1992. Harry eventually donated his famous Santa suit to the Rhinebeck Performing Arts.
Harry did not just play Santa Claus, he was the true spirit of Christmas where the most important thing to him was bringing joy to all the children. Every year he studied and memorized the Toys R Us catalog to help his interactions with each child as they sat on his knee. He continues to be a huge part of our hometown Rhinebeck community and to this day many pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Santa can be found on mantles all around the Hudson valley.
Harry loved art and was very talented spending many hours drawing, painting and building model airplanes and ships.
In 1951 he received a certificate of merit from Scholastic Magazine. His talent was even utilized in 1961 where his sketch of the mugshot of a robber was credited to help in his identification.
Harry was an avid dancer and loved Country Western, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne and Sherlock Holmes. Harry and Lorraine loved to travel taking many cruises all over the islands and wound up with their favorite vacation spot in Barbados where Harry loved getting his beard beaded and eating his flying fish catches.
Harry was a longtime member of the Church of the Messiah serving on the Vestry and putting his love of music and singing into the church choir.
Harry is survived by his sidekick and best friend Butch, his Boston terrier; his wife Lorraine, his daughter and son in law Vicki and Eric Rivera, his grandchildren Meghan Libby and Tyler Figueroa; and his great grandsons Alex, Dylan, Cody and Caleb.
A memorial service will be scheduled at the Church of the Messiah when permitted. Entombment will be in the columbarium at the Church of the Messiah.
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