CLICK THE NAMES BELOW TO READ MORE ABOUT OUR MEMBERS!
Mary Ida Doan
I am Mary Ida Doan. I was born & raised in Bay City Michigan. I went to school at Visitation High School and I graduated in 1957. After graduation, I worked as a clerk at Wendells Dairy on Midland Street. I met a nice guy, his name was Nate. He was a frequent customer and he gave me a ride home a couple of times because I worked until 11:00 at night and I lived on the east side of Bay City for a short time. We started to date & he proposed & I accepted. We announced our engagement on July 19 & after our engagement party we were on our way home & a car was speeding & they rear ended our car & it exploded. We were both badly burned & were in the hospital for over a month. Nate decided we weren’t going to wait to get married. We wanted a large wedding, so where do you start? A hall. We checked & came across Hampton Hall. They had a cancellation for November 23, we took it & planned our wedding in about six weeks. We had over 800 attend our wedding.
The following day we left for Niagara Falls for our honeymoon. While in New York we went to visit Charles & Ruth Howard, Founders of Santa Claus School. They were a wonderful couple, we stayed at Maple Manor, a tourist home & we had a great time in Albion, N.Y. We came home on Wednesday night. The next day was Thanksgiving & Nate started this Santa gig on Friday & worked everyday & evening Santa-ing. I was married a week and I was a “widow” already. I thought, “Is this the way it’s going to be every year. home alone for the month of November & December?” I thought “ if you can’t fight him, join him.” In 1958, I attended Santa School in Albion, NY, to be a Mrs. Santa’s helper. We were the first “couple” to graduate from there!
We started our “season”, Thanksgiving weekend & worked every day & evening until Christmas morning. It was a wonderful experience. We did this as a couple for 54 years. Nate passed away in 1997 & I continued for three more years. I retired after 57 years. I am very involved in the Nate & Mary Ida Doan Santa House, founded in 1991. I oversee all fundraising, as well as day to day operations, all year round. I will continue to do that as long as I am able.
I had been on the 4th of July association for over twenty five years, volunteered for the telethon and helped with the 4th of July parade. Nate & I were King & Queen of the fireworks festival in 1987. I was a volunteer coordinator for Wenona Park for 8 years of the fireworks festival. I was also in charge of the phone room for telethon all that time. I was on the St. Patrick’s Parade association for a number of years, until my husband became ill & I had to leave the committee. I retired my volunteer posts through the fireworks in 2017. I stay busy caring for the Santa House.
Jeff Doan - President
I was born and raised in Bay City and I am a 1978 graduate of T.L. Handy High School. I have been a board member of Christian Assembly Church since the 1980s including my current role as vice president of board. I am a registered official of MHSAA for over 15 years and have been a Bay 3 and Bay County TV high school sports broadcaster for over 15 years. From 1993 to 1997, I broadcasted high school sports on WIXC in Bay City, and from 1999 to 2017, I broadcasted high school sports on Tawas radio station WKJC. I was a Bay County Sports Hall of Fame inductee in 2018. I have been on the Santa House board for 28 years including currently being president. My wife and I were king and queen of fireworks festival in 2005. I have broadcasted the Fireworks Festival telethon for 30 years and have announced the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for over 10 years.
Jared Doan - Vice President
I was born and raised in Bay City and I was a 2018 graduate of Bay City Central. My father is the current Santa House president and I am currently the vice president of the board. As such, I am representing the 3rd generation of Doan’s at the Santa House where I started volunteering at 9 years of age. I have well over 500 hours of volunteer service including the Santa House, fireworks telethon, 4th of July fireworks festival, and tending to the reindeer which included daily feeding and pen maintenance during their stay. I help maintain all things at the Santa House. I am currently attending Delta College and working at Home Depot.
Holly Kukla - Treasurer
My name is Holly Kukla. I was born in Bay City and lived here and in Essexville my entire life. I was born on December 21st hence the name Holly. I went to St Joseph’s grade school and graduated from All Saints. I work for the Bay County Treasurer’s office as Chief Deputy Treasurer. I volunteer as a teacher aide for the Good Shepherd program at St. Jude parish. I am married to Leo and have a son and daughter and their spouses plus three wonderful grandsons. I am excited to be a new board member for the Santa House. Growing up Christmas was always magical especially when Santa and Mrs. Claus came to visit.
Diane Rapson Gabil - Secretary
Diane rapson Gabil (born January 1, 1947), the youngest of the four children of the late Arthur and Ola Rapson, was raised on the family farm in Bad Axe, Michigan. After graduation from Bad Axe High School in 1965, she went on to Central Michigan University to earn a BS (1969) and MA (1971) degrees in Special Education and an Educational Specialist Degree in Community Leadership with emphasis on Gerontology (1989). In 1969, she began her thirty-two years of teaching special needs children all with Bangor Township Schools, Bay City, retiring in 2001. During her teaching career, she was also a supervising teacher for college special education student teachers and the teacher mentor for new special education teachers.
Contracted by the Michigan Department of Education, Special Education Division, Diane taught “OutComes for Special Education” to special education teachers throughout Michigan, 1992-1998. She also co-taught “Transition Program School to Work” sessions to special educators in Northeast Michigan, 1995-1999.
Since 1981, Diane has been director of YWCA Camp Meadows, a summer enrichment day camp program for elementary special needs children. Seeing a need for an extension of this program, she developed YWCA Greener Pastures, a School-To-Work training program for special needs teenage girls; she is also the director of this program which began in 1999. Diane also developed a program for teenage special needs boys which is based on Community Service, recreation/physical fitness, and social skills; she is also director of a program that began in 2012 called YWCA Open Fields.
In 2003, Diane trained to become an Independent Facilitator and is currently a consultant facilitator part-time with the Disability Network of Mid-Michigan, Midland. She facilitates the Person Centered Planning (PCP) meetings in Bay, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Midland, and Arenac counties for individuals with special needs/mental illnesses who receive services from Community Mental Health Agencies. To date, she has facilitated over 400 PCP meetings.
Diane is an active member of Trinity’s Episcopal Church, Bay City, Michigan. As chairperson of Trinity’s Historical Guild, she provided leadership in the research and the planning of the Parish’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2004; she continues to chair the Historical Guild, working toward archiving all the memorials, photos, and print materials kept throughout the years.
Diane volunteers her time and skills as secretary and active committee member of the Nate and Mary Ida Doan Santa House, Inc., Bay City, Michigan. She is active in fundraising, including writing grant proposals for the Santa House.
Beginning in 2002, and continuing to date, Diane has been chairperson for School Tours committee, overseeing 120 volunteers, for the Thumb Octagon Barn, Gagetown, Michigan. Under her leadership and planning, over 1,300 preschool, elementary, and middle school students from nine counties visits the site during the three day event held in May. This educational field trip allows the students to step back in time to see rural America in the 1920’s-1940’s through over twenty-four interactive educational exhibits and displays.
Diane was advertising chairperson, from 2002 to 2016, for the Thumb Octagon Barn’s Fall Family Days celebration held the weekend after Labor Day in September every year. Her advertising work with newspapers, radio, and television stations helped the attendance to soar over 15,000 people during the two day event.
Diane has been an active member of: Bay County’s American Disability Act (ADA) committee member since 1997; involved in the TWCA of Bay County’s “Circle of Women” since 2001; Red Hat Society, Y Mad Hatter, Chapter #16239, organizing member, in July 2003; beginning in 2002 to present an election inspector working elections in Hampton Township; and regularly donates blood at the Michigan Community Blood Center, Bay City – working toward 11 gallons!
In 1996, Diane was awarded the “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers” award having been nominated by a former student and his family. She was recognized in 2000 with the “Who’s Who of American Women” award. In 2001, she earned the “Career in Teaching Award” from Bangor Township Schools for her 32 years in teaching special needs children. Diane’s biography is also listed in the publications of Who’s Who in American Education and 2000 Notable American Women. She was awarded the “Angel Caring for Children Angel Award” from Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Care Network of Michigan, November 2001 and was one of the Mitten Bay Girls Scotus “Women of Distinction” award recipients in 2004. In January of 2005, Diane received “The Rector’s Award” from Trinity Episcopal Church for her work as chairperson for Trinity’s Sesquicentennial and in April of 2005, an “Outstanding Achievement” award from the summer special needs enrichment day camp. Diane was recognized as “Friend Of The Barn” as the 2007, volunteer of the year for Thumb Octagon Barn, Gagetown, Michigan. In 2001, Diane received the “Trinitarian of the Year” award for her continued volunteer service at Trinity Episcopal Church. In 2016, she was recognized with an award as having given “35 Years Of Dedicated Service To YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region”. Diane is an ongoing active sponsor for Michigan Special Olympics.
Diane and her husband, Michael, were married June 24, 1978. Now both are “actively retired”; they enjoy many outdoor activities together and live in Essexville with Scottish Terrier, Duncan.
Donna Bukowski - Board Member
I have served as treasurer of the Nate and Mary Ida Doan Santa House since the year 2000. I have lived in Bay City her entire life. I graduated from T.L. Handy High School, received an Associates degree from Delta College, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saginaw Valley State University. I worked seven years at Mutual Savings & Loan (now Independent Bank), seventeen years at Farm Credit Services (now Greenstone Farm Credit), 7 years at Mortgage America, and over five years at First American Title in both Bay City and Midland. In addition, I taught 7th and 8th grade at St. Anne’s School in Linwood. The majority of my working career was spent in banking and lending.
I have been a volunteer for many years for many different charitable and civic organizations. My volunteerism includes, Channel 19 auction, Paint & Pride, Bay City Fireworks Festival for many years, did patient’s hair at BCMCF, in addition to all of my work at the Santa House. I served as a buyer for the Back to School program for the United Way of Bay County, served on the Downtown Management Board for Bay City, served as the secretary, treasurer, and active member of the Bay County Medical Care Facility Auxiliary, In addition, my home was on the Christmas Tour of Homes benefiting the Bay Arts Council. I also organized and planned an ice cream social to benefit a local family who had lost a young son.
I am very passionate about travel and have visited many parts of the United States and the world. I continue traveling as much as I can.
Peggy Sue Wood - Board Member
Peggy went to T.L. Handy High School and graduated in 1978. She then went on to further her career at Southern Academy in Kissimmee, Florida in 1980, for Airline School. She has been at UPS for twenty-three years and has been involved with raising money for various causes. She has spent many hours raising funds for the Bay City Fireworks and the Santa House. She feels honored and fortunate to be on the board for the Santa House. She loves watching the smiles on the children’s faces as they visit Santa.
John Wetters - Board Member
I am John Wetters. I live and work in Bay City, MI. I have been on the board of the Santa House since 1991.
I first met Mary Ida and Nate Doan at the age of 5. Through the years, I have gotten to know them better. As I grew up, I became interested in Santa Claus and started to get involved in 1980, when I took a Santa Claus class. That changed a lot of things. In 1981, I became good friends with Nate and Mary Ida.
Later, I was talking to Jim Leonard and friends. They suggested that we have a Santa House in Bay City. The building they found was on what was known as ‘peanut island’ at the south end of Wenona Park. At this location, the interior decorations had to be set up and torn down each season. Tom Valent did the set up and tear down. When Tom said he was not going to be able to do it anymore, a group of us took over. Since then, I have helped do set up and have helped build some of the displays. In 1999, the year leading up to when we moved the house, I helped with set up in the storefront that we used on Center Avenue in Bay City.
After the house was moved to the west side, I was very involved with Keith Shore in the renovations and getting the house ready for the first season at our new location. This all took place through the summer of 2000. Everyone worked hard in preparation for Santa’s arrival. I have been working on the board and helping with whatever is needed ever since. I will continue to do so until I am called home to my Lord.
Jennifer Johnson - Board Member
My name is Jennifer Johnson. I am 39 years old. I am married to Jeremy Johnson and we have two daughters, 10 and 13 years old. I have lived in Bay City my entire life and graduated from All Saints Central High School. I went on to Saginaw Valley State University to get a degree in Elementary Education followed by a Masters’ Degree in Early Childhood Education. I have been a teacher at Swan Valley Schools for 16 years.
My dad was raised from a young age by Nate and Mary Ida Doan (his sister and brother-in-law). Therefore, I grew up calling them Grandma and Papa. They have always been a special part of my life and our family so their passion for the Santa House carried over to me and my family as well. I have been personally involved in the Santa House since I was about 10 years old. I used to help Santa and Mrs. Claus by playing the role of “Twinkletoes” the elf. I would talk to the parents of the children waiting in line to find out if there was anything special that Santa needed to know. My family and I continued to volunteer each year during the Christmas season. Later, Jeremy, my then boyfriend, staged a family photo shoot, after closing on the last night of the Santa House season of 2000, so that all of our closest family and friends could be present as he asked for my hand in marriage. Santa even presented me with my engagement ring. On our wedding day, we had pictures taken at the house. As our children got older and we had the joy of taking them to see Santa at the place that has been a big part of our lives, my husband and I wanted to do more to help keep the dream alive so we became part of the Santa House Board of Directors in 2013.
Jeremy Johnson - Board Member
My name is Jeremy Johnson and I have been on the Santa House Board of Directors since 2013. I am 43 years old and have lived in Bay City for the majority of my life. I am married to fellow trustee Jennifer Johnson and we have 2 daughters, Elliana and Lilyana. I am an employee of UPS so the Christmas season is always a busy time of helping Santa with delivering gifts and presents! I became part of the Santa House “family” through my marriage to Jennifer. I started volunteering with her family while we were dating. It became even a bigger part of our lives when I secretly gave Santa Jennifer’s engagement ring which he presented to her in front of many of our friends and family. Our wedding day even included a stop at the Santa House for pictures. The Christmas season is my favorite time of year, and being a part of the Santa House Board provides me with the opportunity to keep that spirit and feeling alive the whole year through.