By Paula @ Holiday World
Published

If, in the past 65 years, you worked at Santa Claus Land or Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, you will recognize that phrase.

And who said it.

Oh, Joe…

Joe Hevron.

He's the only person who worked here every year of our history.

All except when he served his country in the Army, during the Korean War.

Joe lived in the same house all of his life. How many of us can say that?

The house moved, but Joe never did.

Let me explain: Joe lived all his life in Lincoln City, which is about four miles west of us here in Santa Claus.

His family home was on land that was part of the original Lincoln farm. (Yes, that Lincoln.)

When the State of Indiana purchased the land so that Lincoln State Park could include the full Lincoln acreage, Joe's family home was physically moved, but it remained in Lincoln City.

Oh, heavens!

Joe was born on May 9, 1929. The Great Depression was still months away and World War II a decade away.

Joe was a country boy.

Joe graduated from Dale High School in 1947. His uncle had helped him land a job down the road at a new place called Santa Claus Land.

He may not have known it yet, but he was a career man.

Over the years, Joe has done just about everything here at the park. Whatever needed to be done, Joe was happy to step up and do it.

Well, maybe not entertainment.

Come to think of it, though, my oldest son, Tom, tells me Joe would occasionally perform for his Cash Control crew: He'd bring in the CD for Les Miserables. When "Master of the House" played, Joe would dance along. It was hilarious.

Joe also brought in doughnuts every Sunday morning for his crew. Just because he was Joe.

As a parent, knowing Joe was my two older sons' first boss was a blessing. I knew they would work hard and would enjoy every moment of it. Countless parents knew the same over the decades.

Here's Joe long before his Cash Control days:

This photo was even a postcard. "Hey! You're famous, Joe!"

Oh, heavens!

Joe would use that phrase in just about every way. It was his all-purposed reaction. It worked just fine whether he was surprised, amazed, interested, shocked or amused.

Kris Kamp grew up knowing Joe and eventually worked with him. Kris's great-grandfather was Louis J. Koch, who founded Santa Claus Land. 

Kris wrote: May Joe rest in peace while he joins Bill Koch and Will Koch in Heaven…playing cards together and having conversations about the past. Joe was a great man to work for and know personally; part of my work ethic I have today was learned from him. I will always remember his jokes, laughter, and knowledge he shared with me every day for eight years in Cash Control. I will truly miss him…and all he shared with me…

Natalie Koch, the youngest of Bill and Pat's five children, writes: Working in Joe's office was a rite of passage for all the Koch kids. The time I spent with Joe was one of the most enjoyable of my work experiences growing up. I remember working late on Saturday nights with Joe. After my father would leave, Joe would turn on the radio and listen to "A Prairie Home Companion." I loved the way he would laugh at the jokes even though I was too young to understand them at the time.

Even in his later years when Joe had much younger staff working for him, he would volunteer to make a change run all the way to the other end of the park. Joe always set the example for hard work and he truly loved his job. Joe knew all the history of Santa Claus Land and Holiday World. He was a great source of information on just about any topic.

He taught me much about what it meant to be a loyal person with integrity and honesty. I will miss him tremendously. He was not just an employee but an important part of my family.

Joe didn't have any children of his own; he never married.

But he was everyone's favorite uncle:

Joe loved to see his crew members succeed. He'd applaud their plans for college and encouraged them to go after professional internships, even though it meant leaving him.

Joe studied, too. He loved history, especially to learn more about Abraham Lincoln, especially the 14 years young Abraham lived in what was to become Lincoln City, Joe's hometown.

When he was just 12, Joe was chosen to help lay the cornerstone of the new Lincoln Memorial being built by the State of Indiana in what was then Lincoln State Park and is now the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.

Oh, heavens!

Joe is doing the heavy lifting in this 1941 photo. And who is the little girl in the ringlets? None other than 10-year-old Patsy Ann Yellig. (You know her as Pat Koch.)

Here they are together, a few years later:

When I called Mrs. Koch on Tuesday evening to tell her Joe had gone to heaven, she sighed. So many years of friendship and fun. So much laughter and hard work. "Joe was the very definition of loyalty. Such a wonderful man."

Several years ago during a meeting of the park's directors, Will asked us about taking on a new challenge. He wanted us to help him decide whether to move forward with his idea. The reaction was mixed, and as we went around the conference-room table, some gave good reason why the proposal might not be do-able. Until we got to Joe. He took a deep breath and said very simply, "Will, if you think this is the right thing for the park, then we need to do it."

You could have heard a pin drop. The decision was made. And we moved forward without looking back, continuing to grow and prosper.

Joe and Mr. Koch were wonderful friends. It was always fun to see them together. Sometimes it was all business. Other times they would swap stories and remember the days they were bachelors together.

Oh, heavens!

Here's Bill Koch handing Joe a Service Award certificate (a company tradition, given out following each five years of service).

Over the years, the Service Awards became plaques and then etched crystal awards.

One year, Will Koch added something new: the Holiday World Hall of Fame.

Joe was the first recipient.

With the Holiday World Hall of Fame, there was more than a plaque. In future years, recipients received a generous check.

But for Joe, our Cash Control Chief, the bonus came packaged more appropriately.

Here's Natalie Koch and her brother Philip, presenting a tray heaped with wrapped coins for Joe. (That's Philip's daughter, Alexa, taking a peek as Joe laughs.)

Oh, heavens!

Susan Lautner, our Purchasing Manager, tells this story: I worked seasonally in cash control one entire summer and then weekends-only for several years and the ONLY time the radio was turned on was on Saturday evenings for Garrison Keillor’s "A Prairie Home Companion." My coworkers and I thought the show was kind of corny but hey, at least the radio was on! Joe loved that radio show and to this day any time I hear mention of Garrison Keillor it reminds me of Joe.

Sometimes, though, Joe would be much less predictable.

My middle son, John, remembers the time Joe switched it up. Instead of Les Miserables on the CD player, Joe popped in an ABBA album. The stunned crew said not a word as "Mama Mia," "Honey Honey" and "SOS" played over and over all afternoon. When Joe stepped out for a minute, his staff members grinned in amusement. "Joe–what the heck?"

Dan Koch remembers Joe fondly: He always had a smile and a laugh. He was a kind-hearted, good-natured man. We should all strive to have the qualities that Joe had as an individual. He was a dear friend of my father from the time my father moved to Santa Claus in the mid '40s until my father's passing in 2001. I have been told far too many stories about Joe and my father's after-work fun to repeat here. But both Joe and my father had a tremendous work ethic, sense of values, enjoyment of work and respect for all individuals. Joe was a beloved friend of the Koch family beginning with my Grandfather L.J. Koch (Joe was hired by my grandfather) and all of my father's siblings and their descendants. Joe was also a beloved friend of the Santa Claus Land and Holiday World family. I am brought to tears as I write this. God bless Joe. He will be missed.

Joe Hevron in a Lewis & Clark car

It was just last year that Joe was diagnosed with cancer. He fought it like crazy and still came to work when he could. He didn't want to be fussed over. He just wanted to be part of the team.

Everyone's favorite uncle, Joe A. Hevron, will be buried in Old Pigeon Cemetery, on the same quiet plot of land where Abraham Lincoln's only sister was laid to rest nearly 200 years ago. It's located inside of Lincoln State Park in Joe's beloved Lincoln City.

Visitation is tomorrow, Friday, March 11, from 3:00 to 8:00 pm CST at Fuller Funeral Home in Dale.

A Celebration of Joe's Life will be held Saturday, March 12, at 10:00 am CST in the Lincoln Hall at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. If you've ever worked at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari (or even Santa Claus Land) and would like to wear your uniform, please do. Joe would be so pleased.

In lieu of flowers, Joe's family suggests donations be made to the Dale Presbyterian Church Building Fund or the Old Pigeon Cemetery Fund.

This last story can't be credited to anyone in particular, as nearly everyone has brought it up: Joe never forgot a person's name. If he met you once, he remembered your name. And your story.

And Joe, we will never forget yours.

Rest in peace, dear friend.

 

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2 Responses to ““Oh, heavens!””

  1. John Landrum

    There is a picture of Joe in the cab of a large 460 locomotive that appears to be a steam type of a large track gauge such as 20″ or bigger. What is the story of that locomotive and where is it today?

    Reply
  2. HoliBlog

    What was once called the Santa Claus Land Rail Road is now the Freedom Train here at Holiday World.

    Reply