Koch represents Santa Claus on national TV

Photos provided
Pat Koch, who has been helping Santa answer letters since she was a pre-teen, will be reading some letters on the Kelly Clarkson Show on Friday.


SANTA CLAUS — Santa’s chief elf and one of Santa Claus’ beloved matriarchs will be on "The Kelly Clarkson Show" on Friday.

Pat Koch, who has been helping Santa answer letters since she was a pre-teen, will be reading some letters on the television show.

“I was in the audience and stayed in the audience through the whole show,” Koch said Wednesday. “Honestly, some of it was a blur. But I did my best to represent Santa Claus.”

Show producers contacted Koch because they were interested in the work she and elves do in helping Santa answer the thousands of children’s letters that come to the town’s post office.

“I Skyped (online) with them and read some letters,” she said. “And they decided they wanted me to come.”

So Koch and her daughter, Natalie Koch-King, flew to Los Angeles the weekend before Thanksgiving. They were there Friday and Saturday, and came home Sunday. They went to Universal Studios the day they arrived for the show’s filming.

“The people there were all very kind,” Koch said. “They were very receptive and hospitable.”

Koch sat in the audience, but she had been told what she was to do from her seat.

“[Clarkson] came in singing, ‘Run, Run Rudolph,’ and then they told me to stand up and wave,” Koch recalled. She and Clarkson chatted about Santa Claus and her job as chief elf. “And she had me read some letters,” Koch said.

Koch and the elves have been busy in Santa Claus helping to answer letters. It’s something she does every year.

“It’s part of my heritage,” she said, “from my father having started doing this in the 1930s when he came back from World War I.”

Her dad, the late Jim Yellig, is one of the area’s most famous Santas. For him, the duty was planted in his head while he was in the military.

He was a sailor during the war, and talked about his hometown of Santa Claus to his shipmates. “So when they had a Christmas party for children on his ship, the USS New York, they had him be Santa,” Koch said.

“He told me, ‘When I saw the looks in those children’s faces and saw what happened when they believed in Santa Claus, I made a vow that if I lived through the war, I would do this,’” she recalled.

Yelling did survive the war, served in the reserves and worked in Chicago before returning to Indiana in 1930. When he returned, he started helping the postmaster with letters and, ultimately, became Santa Claus in the area.

“So it’s a tradition. And for me, it’s a family tradition,” Koch said. “When I turned 12 years old, I began helping my father.”

Koch continues this service today.

“It has to be done,” she said.”You just think about almost 23,000 children writing a letter and waiting for an answer. I can’t imagine them not getting one.”

As for Friday’s show, Koch doesn’t plan on watching.

I’m not sure how it’s going to look,” she said with a chuckle. “I hope it looks OK. It was an adventure. I hope we helped the area by doing this.”

The Kelly Clarkson Show airs on NBC stations at 3 p.m. ET.

People can also see Koch around Santa Claus this weekend. She will be participating in the Christmas festivities, including being in the town parade Saturday afternoon.

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