Inspirational Women Of Detroit: Patricia Koch


Patricia A. Koch was born in 1931 to Jim and Isabella Yellig of Mariah Hill, Indiana. After graduating high school, she joined the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in St. Louis. For ten years she was a nurse with the Daughters of Charity in St. Louis, New Orleans, and Chicago. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from St. Louis University.

In 1960, she left the religious order to help nurse her parents who were ill. In December of that year, she married W. .A. “Bill” Koch, whose family owned Santa Claus Land in the nearby town of Santa Claus. Over the next six years, the couple had five children.

As her children grew, Mrs. Koch became more involved with the park. Her dedication to the park’s atmosphere has helped earn the family operation, now called Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, the titles of the World’s Friendliest Park (1998-2011) and the World’s Cleanest Park (2000-2011). As Director of Values, Mrs. Koch works with the park’s 80 full-time and 2,300 seasonal employees to maintain the high standards of the family business.

Mrs. Koch continues to be deeply involved in her faith. She was a major force in raising funds to construct St. Nicholas Church in Santa Claus. She also worked with the Catholic Foundation of Southwest Indiana in helping to start the Wisdom Program, designed to help senior citizens continue to be contributing members of society. She is also involved in projects with the Sisters of Saint Benedict at the Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand and at the present time serves as chair of their Executive Advisory Council. One of Mrs. Koch’s favorite organizations is a group of women called “Supporting Our Sisters”. This group annually provides vouchers for women of Spencer County to receive needed health care. Mrs. Koch and her family contribute to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Easter Seals, March of Dimes and many other charitable organizations.

In 2002, Mrs. Koch received her Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry from Loyola University. In 2006, she opened the Santa Claus Museum, dedicated to preserving the history of the town, the post office, and honoring people who have helped contribute to the growth of the area. That year she also co-authored a pictorial history book, called “Holiday World” in celebration of the park’s 60th anniversary season. She is also currently writing an autobiography.

Each December, Mrs. Koch heads up the Santa’s Elves program, a volunteer project designed to ensure that every child’s letter to Santa mailed to the town’s famous post office receives a personal reply. In 2011, Santa’s Elves mailed more than 10,000 letters to children around the world.

A grandmother to 13, Mrs. Koch is especially devoted to her children’s children, who live in Indiana and Florida.

In January 2011 The Indiana Office of Tourism Development and the Koch family announced the creation of the Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award. The new award celebrates and pays tribute to the late Will Koch’s business and philanthropic achievements, recognizes outstanding accomplishments in economic and community development through tourism and showcases the important role tourism plays in a diversified economy.

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