Touching Tribute Atop White House Christmas Tree


A Hilliard man got the chance of a lifetime, as well as his Christmas wish, when he was called to decorate the most famous house in the country.

Kurt Reichart is a retired art teacher, so it’s no surprise that when he decorates his Christmas trees, they are works of art.  Since cardinals remind him of the daughter he lost to cancer, one tree always has cardinal ornaments.

But he had a secret wish to decorate somewhere else: “I have two things on my bucket list, and number one, is to decorate the White House for Christmas.”

From a show on Home & Garden TV, he knew that each year volunteers decorated the White House.  So he applied online and last October, was told that he had been selected.  “It was so exciting.  It was so exciting!” Kurt exclaimed.

Before the 100 volunteers could begin, they were taken to a warehouse to get the decorations.  Kurt’s team unpacked 3,200 crystal icicles and attached a wire to each.  He says he had to take the stubs off and put long wires on, so that people visiting the White House couldn’t pull them off as souvenirs.

They were also given aprons and special ID badges.  “(Its) what kept the Secret Service from shooting me every day,” Reichart jokes.

Kurt’s team was assigned the Palm Room, the Lower Cross Hall, and the Diplomatic Reception Room. One of his jobs was to decorate the mantle beneath Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait of George Washington.  It was there that Kurt says he had “a moment.”  “I had to just kind of stop and I had studied that painting in our history many, many times, and I said to her, ‘I need a moment here because this is too much for me’.”

While he worked in the White House, he thought of how much his daughter would have loved to be there.  So with official permission, he quietly added a small cardinal sticker, which now sits on the tree topper in the Palm Room.

“She got to go to the White House,” Kurt adds.

After three days of decorating, the volunteers were invited to a reception by Mrs. Obama. For Kurt,  it was an event of a lifetime.  “I’m somebody who can tell a story and embellish the bejebbers out of it and I didn’t need to embellish a thing.”

Now Kurt has a new item for his bucket list.  Next year he hopes to be allowed to decorate the Vice President’s mansion.




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