Olathe’s ‘Santa Claus’ dead at 81

Marvin 'Doc' Wollen dead at 81. Family photo

Marvin ‘Doc’ Wollen dead at 81. Family photo

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Much of the following information was provided by Wollen’s daughter, Cathy Maxwell.)

Long-time optometrist, community activist, community Santa Claus, and for years the voice of the Johnson County Old Settlers Parade, Marvin “Doc” Wollen, died peacefully at his home this morning, Tuesday, Sept. 10.

He was 81.

According to his daughter, Cathy Maxwell, funeral services will be Monday, Sept 16, 2013 at Grace United Methodist Church. Visitation is scheduled for 9 a.m. with services starting at 10:30. Graveside services will be at 2:30 p.m. in Garnett.

Wollen will be most remembered by thousands of children for his role as Santa Claus.  He was talked into being the “right jolly old elf” for the first time by his oldest daughter’s kindergarten teacher.  The suit and the part was a natural fit for him and he continued to entertain Olathe School District children as well as appearing at numerous charity and community events as Santa for a total of forty-nine years.  He is also known for his support of local football teams with his infamous watermelon feeds during summer practices. 

Wollen was born May 3, 1932 in Garnett, Kan., the youngest son of Samantha Iva and George Wollen. He played sports for Ottawa University and graduated from the Southern School of Optometry in 1956. He married his college sweetheart Sally and they took up residence in Olathe and he began building his practice, which he did for 48 years, retiring in 2004. He and Sally were married 61 years. She survives of the home.

Wollen always had been active in the community through the Olathe Rotary Club, an active member of Grace United Methodist Church, serving on the Olathe Park Board and as a member of the Johnson County Community College Foundation Board and the Mid-America Regional Council’s Metro Green Civic Leadership Board.

In 2005, he was selected as chair of the Johnson County Park and Recreation District Board. Wollen had been a member of the District Board since 1990 and previously served as chair in 1999. He had also previously served as secretary, treasurer, and vice chair. He served on the Board’s Parks and Golf Courses; Recreation; Park Safety and Interpretation; and Administrative Services committees, as well as on the Theatre in the Park Advisory Committee and as liaison to the Olathe 50 Plus Center. He was a past trustee of both the National Recreation and Park Association and the Kansas Recreation and Park Association and member of the NRPA’s Citizen Member Board.

In 2009, Wollen received an honorary recognition from the Kansas Recreation and Parks Association (KRPA) for his years of service. He  was also honored with the Olathe Commerce Bank Community Service Award in 2010.

“Since 1990, Doc Wollen has been one of a seven-member policy-making board of park and recreation commissioners, appointed to staggered three-year terms by the Johnson County Commission,” District Director Michael Meadors wrote in this nomination adding that Wollen, “is an exemplary citizen representative and an active proponent of the parks and recreation profession. Through his involvement in the local community and the national levels, Doc Wollen has made many positive contributions. His zealous representation has benefitted park and recreation professionals and all Kansas Communities.”

In addition to serving on the District Board, Wollen served three terms on the National Park and Recreation Association (NRPA) Board of Trustees representing the Midwest Region.

Wollen also was honored as Olathean of the Year by the Olathe Chamber of Commerce and for more than 50 years was Santa Claus for many Olathe schools, organizations, businesses and friends during the Christmas holiday season.

Not being one to take it easy in retirement, over the last few years, Dr. Wollen was an employee of Penwell-Gabel Funeral Homes and happily performed as a member of the Trails West Barbershop Chorus.

Those whom he loved who have predeceased him include his daughter Cindy Wollen, his son-in-law Kevin Maxwell, his parents, his sister Juanita Webber, and his brothers George Wollen and Olin Wollen.

Doc leaves behind a host of people who dearly loved him.  Besides Sally, his wife of sixty-one years, he is survived by his daughters, Cathy Maxwell, Terri Wilke, and Tammi Watkins, his son-in-law Darryll Watkins and his grandchildren Chelsea Maxwell Maerzluft and her husband Daniel, Andrew Maxwell and his fiancée Holly, Samantha Maxwell Leon and her husband Diego, Ashley Watkins and her significant other Xavier, Parker Watkins and his significant other Shantenie, Ally Wilke, his great grandchildren Trinity Sencindiver and Zavier Leon, and his sister Alberta and her husband Lester Schulte as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

Since Dr. Wollen married into a florist’s family, the family welcomes flowers.  Memorials can be made to Grace United Methodist Church or the Hospice House of Olathe Medical Center, OMCCF , 20375 West 151st Street , Suite 363 ~ Olathe   KS    66061 (please place the word “hospice operations” in the memo section of your gift).

One Response

  1. Sad news indeed, that’s all I can say.

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