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Pat Koch, Santa Claus' "Chief Elf," receives Indiana's highest honor

Jeff Hillyard

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Pharos Tribune - INDIANAPOLIS — Pat Koch is full of the Christmas spirit. It’s hard to be the former co-operator of a theme park called Holiday World, founder of the Santa Claus Museum and holder of the title Chief Elf without a little Christmas spirit.

And in recognition of Koch’s contribution to her community, both through her business and humanitarian endeavors, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced he will be presenting her with the Sachem Award, considered Indiana’s highest honor.

“Pat Koch is a Southern Indiana powerhouse who put Santa Claus, Indiana, on the map,” Holcomb said in a press release. “While her pathway to success has had many turns and detours, the fundamental theme in her life’s work is to serve others. Pat embraces her fellow Hoosiers with love and kindness.”

The award has been given to someone by the Indiana governor almost every year since 2005, when former Gov. Mitch Daniels began the tradition, according to the state’s website. The name originates from “the Algonquin term applied to village leaders, implying wisdom, judgment and grace.”

Koch’s life has been largely defined by her Catholic faith, having originally joined the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul before leaving because of her sick father. Now at 91 years old, Koch is still part of the Wisdom Program in the Diocese of Evansville and the Sisters of St. Benedict’s executive advisory council, and she is also a member of St. Nicholas Church.

While a part of the Daughters of Charity, Koch went to St. Louis University and became a registered nurse. She then went on to get a master’s degree in pastoral ministry at the age of 70.

Koch helps reply to children’s letters for Santa Claus — hence her designation, Chief Elf — and would act as a mentor to students who worked at Holiday World.

Koch also has the Patricia Koch Family Education Endowment, which gives students at Reitz Memorial High School and Mater Dei High School financial assistance.

The past two recipients of the Sachem Award were James T. Morris, former United Nations World Food Programme executive director, and Reginald Jones, Sr., an Indiana businessman and community leader.

“From the countless smiles you will find at Holiday World or the love you feel from each letter she writes to a child who asks Santa Claus for that special gift,” Holcomb said, “Pat is a reason the spirit of Christmas is alive and well and why she deserves Indiana’s highest honor.”

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Congratulations to her an all who offer their support too. Outstanding :) 

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