Dec. 22, 2022
By David Nordby
The Brillion News
Brillion resident Pamella Hooyman did not plan to play the part of Mrs. Claus.
After she was initially volunteered by her daughter, the Christmas spirit has kept her in the role for the last 14 years. She chuckles now recalling how it started.
“My daughter was the children’s coordinator of events at the American Club Kohler at the time, and the woman that usually did Mrs. Claus got pneumonia prior to a big event,” Hooyman said.
Naturally, she volunteered her mother to fill the role.
“She knew me well that I would love that kind of thing,” Hooyman said.
The Kohler family took notice.
“Unbeknownst to me, the Kohler family was at that breakfast and Mr. (Herb) Kohler came up and said, ‘We want you moving forward.’ So, that’s how I got commissioned in,” Hooyman said.
It was the start of a relationship between her and the family.
“They’ve been a wonderful family. I serve the Kohler company for all their events for Mrs. Claus and the country clubs have me come there, and they are always excited to see me and see the regular face of Mrs. Claus that’s there at Riverbend Country Club and at the American Club for the breakfasts with Santa,” Hooyman said.
She also attends Kohler’s lighting of the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. Locally, she makes appearances as Mrs. Claus in events in the Brillion area. Sometimes they are with Rick Glasow, who plays the part of Santa.
“How I lured him in was, the year we had a gentleman that was an amazing Santa, and he had a heart attack, so he couldn’t, and I was working at Collins State Bank and in walked Rick, and he looked just like Santa,” Hooyman said. “He said he had just finished Santa school and I said, ‘I need a Santa.’”
Hooyman is originally from Denver but had roots in the area.
“I moved here in 1990 to help grandparents and that’s how I ended up in Wisconsin,” Hooyman said.
She doesn’t miss the Denver metro area, but she does miss Colorado.
“My mom and dad and brothers and sisters still live there, so I do go back a lot … I love the small town here; I just miss the mountains … My (saying) is you can take the girl out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountains out of the girl,” she says.
It turns out, spreading the Christmas spirit was in her family history.
“(My dad) reminded me that his dad was Santa for Prange Way for 45 years,” Hooyman said. “I didn’t remember that. I may have heard it as a child, but I didn’t grow up here, so I didn’t remember that.”
Her grandfather met generations of children at the department store in Appleton.
“A lot of kids that grew up here, they sat in my grandfather’s lap at Prange’s when it was downtown Appleton, so they were pretty excited,” Hooyman said.
She’s carried on the family tradition, even back in her home state of Colorado.
“One year we had a family reunion up in Estes Park and we rented a big log cabin at the YMCA, and it was at Christmas, and we left directly from Kohler, so I had my Mrs. Claus dress and everything,” Hooyman recalls.
At the YMCA, one of her sisters told the group Mrs. Claus was checking in.
“They ended up having me do a couple events for them while I was there, so that was really cool,” Hooyman said.
This year, she’s appeared at Round Lake Farms with Glasow, stopped at KOR in Brillion, continued an annual appearance at the Brillion Public Library, made a longer trek to Random Lake school.
“Usually after I’m done at the library, I take a walk through Econofoods and hand out candy canes just for fun,” Hooyman said.
Please see the complete version of this story in the Dec. 22, 2022 print edition of The Brillion News.