Pewaukee Couple Help Santa and Mrs. Claus Spread Holiday Cheer

By Zac Schultz | December 22, 2017


Every year, kids around the globe are excited to tell one of Santa’s helpers what they want for Christmas. But once a year, a handful of children around Pewaukee are lucky enough to meet the real Santa and Mrs. Claus.

John Nugent knows it’s the real Santa and Mrs. Claus because he hired them. “I was fortunate to be the 4th generation in the Nugent family to be in the temporary help business.” 

John Nugent is in the temporary staffing industry’s hall of fame, and not just because a couple decades ago he found Santa Claus for one of the biggest temp jobs of the season. “We had an order from the Robert E. Johnson Cookie Company.  They called one time and they were interested in having a Santa and a couple of elves for an evening for a Christmas party for the employees’ children.”

“Just like magic, Santa showed up and said, ‘I can help!’” recalls Ruth Nugent.  Ruth turned out to be an even more important hire by John, mostly because she was never temporary. “I was a full-time employee,” she says.

They met at John Nugent’s company and married in 1986. Soon Mrs. Claus was showing up with Santa. ”Mrs. Claus said, ‘It’s time that I get to meet some of the children and get to really feel the joy of Christmas from first hand,’” says Ruth Nugent.

But how do the kids know it’s the real Santa and Mrs. Claus?  Ruth Nugent says, “They know the difference between the real Santa and Santa’s helpers that are in the mall. If they weren’t real, how would they know the name of each kid’s ”Elf on a Shelf’ or things that happened over the summer?  Well how in the world would anybody know except the real Santa?”

John Nugent says Santa and Mrs. Claus keep coming back each season because they enjoy the work. “Santa loves to see people happy and feel like he’s contributing to that happiness to some extent.”

Ruth Nugent says, “That joy is within them. And if that isn’t there, then our life is kind of flat.”

While Santa and Mrs. Claus have brought joy to the elderly and the ill, they themselves don’t get sick. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Ruth. “I had cancer 11 years ago. And it was in remission. I was just notified this fall that the cancer came back and it’s stage 4 in my bones.”

“I was very nervous when I found out Ruth’s diagnosis,” says John Nugent.

John and Ruth have the same Christmas wish for Santa.  “I’ve talked to Santa and said, ‘If I’m supposed to have this, help me to have the joy to live while I’m here,’” says Ruth.


John’s Early Christmas

John Nugent explains why, as a child, Christmas gifts arrived the night before.

History of the Temp Staffing Business

John Nugent tells of how his great-grandfather started the temporary staffing industry around 1897 in Milwaukee.


Zac Schultz

Zac Schultz is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project who thinks three-minute stories and one-line bio descriptions are woefully brief.

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