Romie Circle, a career Roseville firefighter with a generous community spirit who delighted underprivileged children at Christmas as Santa Claus, died Sept. 24 with acute leukemia, his family said. He was 73.
Mr. Circle devoted himself to Roseville as a public servant and volunteer. He started with the Roseville Fire Department as a volunteer, sharpened his skills as a firefighter in the Air Force and returned to the department in 1967. He spent 26 years as a fire engineer as the fast-growing city transitioned from volunteer to professional firefighting operations.
But many youngsters knew the jolly man with twinkling eyes and bushy brows as Santa Claus, a role he played for many years at Christmas parties and public events, including the town’s annual tree lighting. He was a longtime volunteer with the Tommy Apostolos Fund, a charity that helps provide clothes, coats, shoes, backpacks and school supplies for needy children.
He grew a thick white beard after retiring from firefighting and donned a red suit and black boots at Christmastime to help make wishes come true. He welcomed wide-eyed youngsters on shopping trips sponsored by the charity, gave out candy canes and posed for pictures.
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“He really loved playing that role,” said Tony Davis, a Roseville fire battalion chief and community volunteer. “I don’t know who lit up more at those events, him or the kids.”
A grandfather of five, Mr. Circle told children that he was one of Santa’s helpers and that his red suit “was magic – when he had it on, he heard things and knew who was naughty and nice, and he would report it to Santa,” his wife Mary said. “But when he took his suit off, he forgot everything he heard.”
But some stories were unforgettable.
“He would come home with little cards and letters from kids who just wanted Mommy or Daddy to come home – or who just wanted to have a home,” his wife said. “Many asked for puppies or kittens, and he would tell them that he would try but they were hard to keep in the sleigh. He never wanted to promise anything and disappoint them.”
Born in 1940 in San Diego, Romie Dean Circle was 5 when his parents moved their family to Roseville. A football and track athlete at Roseville High School, he was one of several runners chosen to carry the Olympic torch on Interstate 80 to the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley.
He served four years in the Air Force, married his wife in 1968 and raised three sons. He was a longtime parishioner and volunteer at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Roseville.
In addition to firefighting, Mr. Circle was active in Roseville with his wife as owners and operators of a Christian bookstore on Vernon Street for five years. The couple later had a catering business with some friends.
After retiring from the Roseville Fire Department in 1993, he drove buses transporting fire crews to remote wildfires and drove local commuter buses and tour buses. He also volunteered as a school crossing guard.
Besides his wife of 46 years, Mr. Circle is survived by his sons Robert, Kelly and Erin; three brothers, Arthur, Earl and Harry; and five granddaughters.
A service is set for 10 a.m. Oct. 3 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 2351 Pleasant Grove Blvd., Roseville.