Ketchikan’s own Santa and Mrs. Claus are the 2013 Citizens of the Year, an honor announced at Saturday’s annual Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce awards banquet.
Jim and Connie Wingren have portrayed the iconic couple over many holiday seasons, and those roles were among the many listed by Doug Ward, who announced the award.
“They have delighted all of us with their beautiful costumes, their warm Christmas spirit, they joyfully receive the children to rest in their laps, and they genuinely care for the little ones that scream and fuss as their pictures are taken,” he said. “Just as they have done for so many years, they gladly give themselves to bring joy to others.”
Jim Wingren is a retired firefighter and business owner who served many years on the Ketchikan City Council. The couple has been active in their church, school activities and local organizations, including First City Council on Cancer.
Connie Wingren is a longtime teacher, and now is principal at Holy Name Catholic School.
“When one of her sixth graders was asked his favorite thing about the principal, his response was, ‘One thing? There are so many good things,’” Ward said.
Jim Wingren said the Santa Claus gig started many years ago when he was asked to play the role for an event.
“It got me out of the store for three hours, so I volunteered,” he said. “Within five years I was hooked, and over the last 47 years I’ve been doing it and I love it.”
Connie Wingren said it’s easy to teach and care for the community’s children.
“Children are special to us, and that’s what’s going to keep us going forever now,” she said. “All the beautiful children that you have, your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. And we thank you for all of them.”
The Chamber also announced a special lifetime achievement award for the late Dorothy Benson, who founded Capital Investment Realty with her husband in the mid-1970s. Benson’s daughter, Kay Sims, accepted the award.
“My mother would be very honored to accept an award like this and I just wish she were here to do that,” Sims said. “On behalf of our entire family, and that included grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, we’re very proud and honored to accept this.”
Other awards were: Scanlon Gallery, the Business of the Year; Creekside Family Health Clinic, the Entrepreneur of the Year; Scout leader Jim Mieresonne, who was named Outstanding Youth Leader; The Salvation Army, which received the Community Service Award; Erica Caudill, the Young Professional of the Year; and Charley Starr of Starr Photography, who received the President’s Award.