Bruce Nolan Crabtree, a mountain of a man whose large white beard had scores of children around the holidays convinced he was Santa Claus, died Oct. 4 of lung cancer, his family said. He was 64.
Mr. Crabtree worked 35 years in agricultural sales, serving farmers from Visalia to Redding and from the Delta to western Nevada.
Mr. Crabtree was one of 12 siblings who grew up in rural Elk Grove in the 1950s and '60s and the fourth to pass. He was 6-foot-7 and wide-bodied and would draw long, startled looks during the Christmas season. When he sensed that children were identifying him with Santa Claus, Mr. Crabtree would grin and ask them as he walked by, "Have you been good?"
He generally received an enthusiastic "Yes!"
Mr. Crabtree was a Harley-Davidson motorcycle enthusiast, a member of the Elks Lodge and won his share of spirited chili cook-offs. He took equal pride in his work, driving hundreds of hours and thousands of miles in all aspects of agricultural sales. Corn seed for dairy farmers was a specialty.
"You couldn't find a farmer in the Central Valley of California who didn't know my father," said his son Josh Crabtree, a social science teacher and football coach at Sheldon High School in the Elk Grove Unified School District.
Mr. Crabtree graduated from Elk Grove High School in 1966 when it was the only school in the district, surrounded by farmland. He was drafted into the Army, broke both of his heels in service and was awarded the Purple Heart.
Mr. Crabtree married his wife of 40 years, Claudia, in 1972 and raised two children, who raised four grandchildren, all of whom reveled in his Santa look and beard.
Bruce Nolan Crabtree
Born: June 10, 1948
Died: Oct. 4, 2012
Survived by: Wife, Claudia of Elk Grove; son, Josh of Elk Grove; daughter, Sara of Paso Robles; brothers, Basil and Stanley Crabtree; six sisters, Barbara West, Betty Wallen, Bonnie Parker, Beverly Kuntz, Brenda Gibbs and Susan Sutter; and four grandchildren.
Services: 11 a.m., Friday, Elk Grove Funeral Chapel, 9101 Elk Grove Blvd., Elk Grove.
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