Cooperstown mourns community servant, Kuhn

Cooperstown mourns
community servant, Kuhn

By PATRICK DEWEY • Special to

The Cooperstown community found itself forced to consider life without Santa Claus when Paul Kuhn died Wednesday, June 2, at the age of 83.

Kuhn was perhaps best known as Cooperstown’s Santa Claus, a post that he held with joy and authenticity for 20 years.

According to Molly Myers, a Main Street Christmas helper from a young age, Kuhn’s listening skills and genuine care for people were a big part of what made him the perfect Father Christmas.

A few years younger than Myers, Bella Anania said she remembers eagerly waiting in line with her three siblings to see Kuhn in character. She said that he could relate to any child.

“He embodied the spirit of Christmas,” Anania said.

Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said as children aged and Christmas started to take on new meaning, Kuhn allowed them to reflect on the holiday season and Santa as symbols of giving.

Kuhn also served as an advocate for Cooperstown’s youngest generations through work with the Rotary Youth Exchange and The Farmers’ Museum.

At the museum, he was a leader for young interpreters playing roles of historical figures. Kuhn himself also played the part of historical figures.

“He knew history and had a wonderful way of presenting it,” Tillapaugh said.

For the Rotary Youth Exchange, Kuhn helped to pair incoming foreign-exchange students with host families in the area. He also mentored every student throughout their time in the new country and community. As part of the program, students typically lived with up to three different families throughout their experience.

“There are always a lot of cultural dynamics and family dynamics for students to get used to, and as an advocate, Paul was very sensitive to that,” Tillapaugh said.

Former Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz also served alongside Kuhn on Rotary. He said Kuhn took charge of the program.

“It is a team effort, but any team needs a good leader and that was Paul,” Katz said. “Whether it was as host families or counselors, or anything in between, Paul motivated everyone to participate.

“Paul fought hard whenever he felt Rotary was not functioning in the student’s best interest,” Katz said.

In addition, Kuhn and his wife Mary Margaret hosted several exchange students.

Yet another way in which Kuhn served his community was as a member of the Village Board of Trustees. Katz said he will always remember that Kuhn was meticulous and thorough, consistently reading up on local issues.

“Whether it was as a trustee or in his many other roles, you knew Paul always had the best interest of the community in his mind and heart,” Katz said.

Anania now teaches kindergarten at Cooperstown Elementary School and she said Kuhn is one of her role models.

“He was so attentive, caring and nurturing and now as a professional, I strive to bring those traits to the classroom,” Anania said.

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