By David Madden

By David Madden

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) — The town of Cherry Hill, NJ is in mourning today, after word of the passing of a longtime member of the township council last night.

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John Amato was first elected to Council in 1983 and quickly became known not just for his financial expertise and commitment to his community but for his uncanny resemblance to a certain jolly old elf.

“He was one of the original Santas at the Cherry Hill Mall, and did that for years and years,” recalls mayor Chuck Cahn.  “That permeated throughout the town, and people would see him even without the uniform on and refer to him as ‘Santa John.’ ”

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Amato was 82.

The township’s Democratic Committee has fifteen days to nominate three people to fill his seat. Town Council will make the final selection.

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Viewings for Amato are set for 6-9pm Monday and 10-10:45am Tuesday, at Queen of Heaven Church in Cherry Hill. The funeral mass will be at 11am Tuesday. Interment will follow at Calvary Cemetery, on Route 70.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to The Cooper Foundation, One Cooper Plaza, Camden, NJ 08103.