SANTA CLAUS, IN (WFIE) - The owner of southern Indiana theme park Holiday World and Splashin' Safari, Will Koch, died overnight.
According to a press release issued by the theme park, Koch died at home of what the family believes to be complications from diabetes.
He was 48.
Despite the loss of her son, Pat Koch greeted guests Monday morning as she often does.
But on this day, they came to her with hugs of sadness and words of comfort.
"I'm amazed," Pat said. "My thought was, 'well they're not going to know,' but they know. We don't want to ruin their day."
She says that keeping the park open was a way to honor Will Koch's work.
During Koch's tenure as Chief Executive Officer of Koch Development Corporation, the parent company of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, the park saw dramatic growth.
Starting with the addition of Splashin' Safari in 1993 and continuing with the construction of the Wildebeest this year, the park earned international awards and saw attendance figures topping one million per year.
"You say you're amazed that I'm here," Pat said. "There's no other place for Kochs to be but Holiday World."
Reminders of the loss were all around; flags at half staff, Will's picture with his mom thanking guests as they left and his voice still on the speakers.
"I walked in this morning and normally I'd peek in his office to see if he was there," Pat said. "He'd be on the phone or the computer, he was so electronic, that's gonna be tough"
Will's family says they don't know exactly how the park will run without him, but they say they know one thing, it will remain a family operation.
"As the family works through their grief, then they can make the decision as to who will replace, you can't replace Will, but who will be taking that spot," Holiday World Spokesperson Paula Werne said.
Koch is survived by his wife, Lori, and three children Lauren, Leah, and William.
He is also survived by his mother, Pat, and siblings Dan, Kristi, Philip and Natalie.
The Koch family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the following locations:
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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