Compassionate 'Shoe Santa' Ray Villarreal dies at age 84

Published: 2011-06-27 09:32:54
Author: Alex Hinojosa

Raymond "Ray" Villarreal, El Paso's own Shoe Santa who provided thousands of handicapped children with shoes, died Tuesday.

Villarreal, 84, died at his home in San Antonio.

The cause of death is unknown, but he was diagnosed in March with non-Hodgkins lymphoma -- a cancer of the lymph nodes and immune system.

Villarreal, former owner of Footfit Shoe Store that opened in 1966 in El Paso, was known for his advertisement: "If you know of a crippled child, send them to me."

He helped more than 100,000 handicapped and needy children in El Paso and Juárez -- some of whom took their first steps because of Villareal.

According to El Paso Times archives, Villareal would provide orthopedic services without charge.

"He shared his kindness and generosity to those in need," members of the Villarreal family wrote in a statement. "He was deeply loved and will be missed by all those he touched."