By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
TRINIDAD–The City of Trinidad is without its own active police force Wednesday when Police Chief James Cook and officer Andrew Brunette announced their resignation.
Cook and Brunette will be on paid administrative leave until April 21, the date of the next scheduled city council meeting. Trinidad Mayor Larry Estes said he expects council members to begin the process of restaffing the vacancies during that meeting.
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Department will be taking over law enforcement in the interim and at press time are transferring city evidence to county detectives.
Estes learned the shocking news during a business meeting with Cook and Brunette early Wednesday morning. Cook had been with the force since July 2013, and Brunette, since October 2013.
The Trinidad Police Department has been with just two staff members since former officer Jarod Mills’ resignation at a special council meeting January 13. The council agreed in the cost-cutting move to not replace Mills and free up money in the budget.
Estes could not specify what circumstances led to Cook and Brunette’s resignation. A call to the Trinidad Police Department Wednesday was unable to uncover specifics either, as Cook was in transition planning. Cook stated “I have no comment and am in a hurry.”
This was Cook’s second stint as the Trinidad Police Chief. He previously served as chief in 2007 and resigned after a dispute with former District Attorney Donna Bennett. He has since served in law enforcement with Jasper County, Log Cabin City and Athens.
His return to Trinidad was heralded with lofty goals to “clean up the city” by enforcing city code to bring property owners into compliance.
“City code enforcement is our first priority,” Cook had said. “We need to get the city presentable to get people to move here, not away from here.”
Posted by : April 8, 2015| On :
By Erik Walsh
Posted by : March 20, 2015| On :
TRINIDAD–A flap over the future of the First Baptist Church of Trinidad found itself before the city council during the March 17 monthly meeting. Current church membership has dwindled to a handful, and services have not been held since November.
Tensions started during the public comments portion of the meeting, when Hugh Roberts and his wife, Charlotte, who live in Log Cabin, asked about city zoning regulations that might stand in the way of the couple converting the church to a faith-based, state-licensed children’s home under private control.
The idea of a Trinidad children’s home drew the ire of Kenneth Carter, who formerly served as Trinidad police chief and a Henderson County deputy. Carter said his experience with a children’s home came from the former St. Paul Industrial School, located in Caney City. Carter said such children’s homes “always mean trouble” and that he “worked day and night” dealing with those who lived there. “If it’s such a good place,” Carter said, “why don’t you put it in your back yard, and not mine?”
Other options discussed included conversion to a Hispanic outreach mission or to turn over leadership to another group that would continue church services. Joe D. Cooper of Key Ranch Estates, who said he has more than 40 years’ experience in the ministry, offered to keep the church going. Cooper also stated that he believed church bylaws and the deed he said was gifted in 1991 state that the property must remain a church.
Online records of the Henderson County Appraisal District for 2014 show a one-acre parcel of land with a 10,000 square-foot structure with a market value of $800,000, and an adjacent half-acre lot valued at nearly $4,000. Both properties are owned completely by First Baptist Church-Trinidad, according to the 2014 records.
Former FBC-Trinidad pastor Jim Lamb said there were four members of the church when he stepped down from the pulpit and handed control to Wayne Pitchford of Log Cabin. Lamb said the handoff was a handshake deal to turn the building into a Hispanic outreach mission. Since then, water and electric service has been discontinued, and rumors swirl that the building has had its locks changed. Those opposing the children’s home also stated that plans include tearing down the church sanctuary, which Pitchford denied.
Pitchford said there are now three members of the church, which is located at 302 Lawrence Street. While services haven’t been held since late last year, church members continue to hold monthly business meetings, Pitchford said. It was during those meetings that church members agreed that a children’s home would be a better option than the outreach mission.
Also in question is control of the church’s bank account. Lamb said the original deal called for more than $10,000 remaining in church coffers to be transferred to a Seven Points congregation. Pitchford said the account remains in First Baptist Church-Trinidad’s name at a Malakoff bank in that same amount.
Lamb and others fear that if a children’s home is established, the state of Texas will eventually end up in control of the church through the state Child Protective Services (CPS). Lamb and Cooper stated they opposed the intermingling of church and state.
Pitchford said he, too, opposes government control of the property, and that any children’s home would be governed by a nonprofit board of directors. Pitchford added that he has been threatened with two lawsuits since the controversy erupted.
Council member Roy Stanfield voiced support of the children’s home, pointing out it would increase enrollment in Trinidad schools. Mayor Larry Don Estes said while he had no vote on the issue, the controversy “wasn’t a (City of) Trinidad matter, but a lawyer matter.” The Trinidad City Council took no action on the First Baptist Church issue.
Also during March 17’s meeting, Utility Service Group offered the city a deal to rehabilitate and maintain the city’s two ground water storage tanks. Each of the first three years of the contract would cost the city about $57,000, which would pay for repairs. After the initial three-year contract, the agreement would revert to an annual one, costing Trinidad about $15,000 per year. The city’s elevated water storage tank was not factored into those figures, but could be if the city desired to do so, Almond said. Council members took no action on the matter.
In other business, the Trinidad City Council approved a $65,000 deal with AAA Sanitation to replace two manholes and approximately 600 feet of sewer line on McEntire Road (FM 764); voted to demolish a garage April 24 at 511 McEntire; eliminated parking along Oak and First streets; reduced the speed limit on Oak Street from 25 mph to 20 mph; accepted resignations of Bette Lehmann and Heather Burton from the Trinidad Economic Development Corp. board; and revised the city’s noise ordinance to prohibit trucks from using motor engine brakes within the city limits.
In addition, the Trinidad council voted to table a request by Trinidad ISD Superintendent Corey Jenkins to acquire fencing from the city-owned baseball field behind Dillon’s Park for school use.
Posted by : March 18, 2015| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
ATHENS–Henderson County Commissioners made it clear they support giving small towns the ability to bring tougher restrictions to sex offenders that live in its jurisdiction.
The vote commissioners agreed on Tuesday backs State Rep. Stuart Spitzer’s December legislation, House Bill 384, to provide “general-law municipalities the ability to pass local ordinances to restrict sex offenders from child safety zones.”
The bill would put small towns on equal footing to cities with populations greater than 5,000, which already restrict where sex offenders live.
The commissioners’ vote will have no effect on the legislation, but shows the county’s support.
Talk of the legislation’s need was fueled this month when registered sex offender James William Cassels, 31, moved across the street from a Eustace Independent School District campus earlier this month. Cassels was convicted of assaulting a 5-year old boy.
Eustace Mayor Elicia Sanders voiced her displeasure of his residence location and the fact the city’s hands are tied to intervene.
“This monster was sentenced to 10 years in prison but is free now and cana live anywhere he chooses in small Texas towns because the law does not allow us to protect our kids from him,” Sanders said.
If the legislation is approved it will effect most of Henderson County, as the only cities in its borders with a population greater than 5,000 are Athens and Gun Barrel City. The bill was filed last legislative session by State Rep. J.M. Lazano, and former State Rep. Lance Gooden, but neither bill made it out of committee.
In other action, Commissioners:
• re-appointed four members of the Henderson County Regional Fair Park Board, Lee Tackett, Charla Hendrix, Charles Elliott and Brian Childress;
•authorized the transfer of a Brother Intellifax 4100e fax machine to the Henderson County Fire Marshal’s Environmental Crimes unit;
• required Atmos Energy to obtain two road bonds in the amount of $250,000 each for proposed pipeline contraction in Precincts 1 and 2.
Posted by : March 13, 2015| On :
Special to The News
EUSTACE–A registered sex offender who assaulted a 5-year-old boy has moved across the street from the Eustace Independent School District campus where children play on the school grounds, Eustace Mayor Elicia Sanders reports.
James William Cassels, 31, who also goes by “Pork Chop” and “Little James” registered this week with the Eustace Police Department as a sexual offender living on Farm-to-Market Road 316 S. in Eustace across from the town’s schools.
“This five-and-a-half foot tall, 280-pound monster was sentenced to 10 years in prison but is free now and can live anywhere he chooses in small Texas towns because the law does not allow us to protect our kids from him,” Sanders said.
Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R-Dist. 4) has filed HB 384 to prevent registered sex offenders from living near schools, daycare centers and other places children gather. “This is even more proof that we must pass Rep.. Spitzer’s legislation to prevent child molesters from living by our children near schools and parks,” Sanders said.
In larger cities, local laws regulate where sex offenders live.
“Rep Spitzer is leading the charge for his small town protection act and is urging other communities to join the fight against child predators,” she said.
Eustace Police Chief Jason Perrini said that people can rest assured that the police department will keep a close eye on him – “as we do with all sex offenders, to make sure the children of Eustace are safe no matter where they are in town, but this proposed law is needed to protect our schools.”
Posted by : March 9, 2015| On :
The News Photo/Pearl Cantrell
U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (right) thanks Bob McDonald for his contributions to historical preservation and service to the people of Henderson County with a Congressional Resolution during the Memorial Day 2013 dedication of the Veterans Memorial at the Athens Cemetery. McDonald was the moving force behind the cemetery memorial, as well as the Memorial Wall at the East Texas Arboretum. McDonald died last week.
By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff
ATHENS–Though relatively few know his name, Bob McDonald leaves a legacy which will impact visitors and Henderson County residents alike for many, many years to come.
The kiosk he designed to assist those looking for the gravesites of relatives and loved ones at the Athens Cemetery is invaluable.
His planning and direction of the Veterans Memorial, both at the cemetery and the East Texas Arboretum stands as a testament to sacrifice and service, of which McDonald himself participated in during the Korean War.
“The work of his hands and heart are seen everywhere you look,” East Texas Arboretum & Botanical Society executive director Teresa Glasgow said.
He also served on the board of Trinity Valley Community College, the Athens Historical Preservation, Inc., Keep Athens Beautiful and a handful of other civic committees.
A public celebration of his life is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 17 at the Athens Cemetery.
“We are going to miss him in a lot of ways,” co-volunteer and businessman Steve Grant said of his passing.
“It wasn’t just his wisdom and knowledge, he had a heart of gold,” Grant explained. “He wanted to make things better in everything he did. No job was too big or too small; he put a lot of thought into everything he did.”
McDonald succumbed to cancer at the age of 86. He was born Jan. 24, 1929 and died Feb. 27, 2015.
Glasgow pointed to the 20 hours a week he consistently invested at the East Texas Arboretum. He likely put in similar hours at the cemetery on its maintenance and seeing the many improvements over the past 15 years.
At the dedication of the Veterans Memorial Wall at the cemetery on Memorial Day, 2013, state and national elected officials presented resolutions passed by Congress and the State House, citing his service to better the Athens community through historical preservation.
One of the last projects he designed and directed was the construction of the cemetery’s columbarium.
His love for life, the outdoors and veterans grew from his own military service with the storied 2nd Armored Division as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army, during the Korean War.
His practical, logical thinking was groomed by Texas A&M University as a mechanical engineer, who went on to design and build oil, gas and chemical processing plants and offshore structures.
He retired in 1988, and he and wife Leta returned to their hometown of Athens to live on land belonging to the McDonalds for 150 years. The couple reared two sons: Glenn and Mark.
After a brief respite, his second career began, as he poured his energies, heart and mind into his interests as a volunteer.
A matching grant of up to $50,000 has been set aside to form an endowment in Bob McDonald’s name for the East Texas Arboretum & Botanical Society. To donate go to easttexasarboretum.org/support.
Posted by : March 9, 2015| On :
The News Staff
ATHENS–There will be no elections in Athens this May due to a lack of opposition.
At Athens Independent School District, Board President Rob Risko drew no opposition for Place 3. In Place 4, incumbent Ginger Kirk will not run again. Former board member Jennifer Mahmoud filed for that seat without competition.
At the City of Athens, Mayor Jerry Don Vaught and incumbent councilman Monte Montgomery are both unopposed. Because they are the lone candidates filing for their respective seats for any of the seats, there wilelection.
Malakoff ISD asks voters to approve the issue of $3M in bonds to improve facilities at Tiger Stadium, replace air conditioning units, improve security and purchase new buses – all without raising the tax rate.
The deadline for candidates to sign up for the May 9 Local Election with their prospective cities or school districts was Feb. 27.
Those taxing entities which are cancelling their elections due to unopposed candidates include: Kemp, Log Cabin, and Seven Points, along with school districts in Eustace and Mabank.
The City of Payne Springs is holding a Special Election May 9 to ask voters to renew a quarter percent sales tax dedicated to road repair.
Voters approved the road dedication proposal four years ago and it’s time to reinstate that policy for another four years or let it expire.
City officials report the quarter percent tacked onto purchases made at businesses in the city yeilds about $1,000 in additional funding, monthly.
The city had asked the county to include this item on the November, 2014 ballot, when the city usually holds its city elections; however, the request had been overlooked.
“This is the last opportunity to have it on the ballot,” City Secretary Karen Juica explained. Last time, this proposition only passed by one vote, she added. “This is not a property tax, but a portion of the sales tax,” Juica clarified.
The early voting, along with Election Day polling will be held at the city hall, located at 19601 CR 2529.
In Log Cabin, Judy Bearden will be installed as mayor, taking Larry Nolan’s place, who signed up for a seat on the council. New office holder Jennifer Williams will fill the second open seat, while Jerry Bearden, the brother of James Bearden – who passed away – will fill the unexpired term on the council.
At Eustace ISD, four places came up for renewal. Those seats are being filled with Bobby Karl Ashton, Billy ‘Cotton’ Walker, Steven Bell and James Kirkhart, who was appointed to fill an unexpired term in January.
Entities holding elections in November include Enchanted Oaks, the City of Malakoff, City of Trinidad and Trinidad ISD; East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District and West Cedar Creek Municipal Utility District.
Posted by : February 5, 2015| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
ATHENS–After nearly 30 years in operation, the Henderson County Alcohol/Drug Abuse Education Awareness Association is no more.
County Commissioners agreed to disband the once-influential community group after Coordinator Linda Battles told the court a lack of public interest and funding contributed to its shut down Jan. 3.
The Association was originally named the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Task Force when it was created in the 1980s. The name was only changed recently when the sheriff’s office added a drug task force to its law enforcement.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney recalled the Association’s formation and positive impact it had on Henderson County.
“It was a pioneer program,” McKinney said. “When MADD started getting big in the 1980s, the Education Awareness Association took off and was a driving force behind efforts to educate teens and the public about drug and alcohol abuse. Funds started tapering off in the mid-90s when the federal government started funding other similar programs. They became duplicate programs and competitive.”
Battles said that it is in the Henderson County Alcohol/Drug abuse Education Awareness Association bylaws that the Association could only be disband by the Commissioners Court. She also returned a check for $355.69, all unused funding, to the county. Battles said the local Crimestoppers and Teen Court grew out of the efforts of the original task force.
“Originally it was funded by United Way, and Ginger Murchison gave us money,” Battles said. “We were gung ho for about five or six years.”
In other news, Commissioners approved:
• right-of-way permits for the Leagueville Water Supply Corporation to cross County Road 3600 and CR 3613 in Precinct 3;
• a refund of overpaid property taxes requested by the Henderson County Tax Assessor/Collector;
• payment of quarterly state fees in the amount of $132,619.70;
• payment of 2014 bills in the amount of $117,952.43.
Posted by : January 7, 2015| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
ATHEN–Each Jan. 1, elected county officials across America are sworn in to begin their tenure. This year five such officials gathered at the Henderson County Courthouse Annex to make their vows of service, while simultaneously three more affirmed their oaths across the street at the County Court at Law Courtroom.
At the Courthouse Annex, Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Randy Daniel, JP 2 Judge Kevin Pollock, JP 3 Judge Tony Duncan, District Clerk Betty Herriage and County Commissioner Precinct 2 Wade McKinney took the honored vows to serve the residents of Henderson County. Former JP 3 Judge Sue Starnes swore in Duncan in a touching ceremony and exchange between friends, while Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders swore in Daniel, Pollock, Herriage and McKinney.
Former Athens Mayor Randy Daniel began his first full term as JP 1. He has already served in that capacity since 2013 after being appointed to an unexpired term. Likewise, former Seven Points Mayor Kevin Pollock and Tony Duncan began their first terms as justices. Betty Herriage made the move to District Clerk from the District Attorney’s office, where she served since 1996.
While the majority of officials took their first county-level oath during the brisk January morning, one official reaffirmed his oath for a fifth term in office. Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney was first elected commissioner in 1999 at 28 years of age. McKinney begins his 16th year as County Commissioner.
During a break from the seriousness of the swearing in cremony, McKinney lightened the mood by stating of all the County Judges he’s served with, Sanders was “My favorite.”
In another light-hearted moment, Starnes advice to incoming justices was a reminder that common sense is “not common.”
Across the street at the County Court at Law Courtroom, three other officials began their terms or renewed their oaths. Prescient 4 County Commissioner Ken Geeslin began his second term after successfully gaining reelection in November.
New County Court at Law Judge Matt Williams was sworn in to his first term after winning the Republican Primary last March. He was unopposed in the November general election.
Also, Mary Margaret Wright began her first official term as County Clerk after serving in that capacity by appointment since the retirement of Gwen Moffeit last March.
Former Court at Law Judge Matt Livingston administered the oaths.
Posted by : December 30, 2014| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
HENDERSON COUNTY–Much has transpired in Henderson County in the past year. From the courthouse’s birthday, to school bomb threats, to tragic accidents, these are the stories that mattered to us the most at The News.
AMWA dispute resolved: Voters decided to keep the Athens Municipal Water Authority (AMWA) afloat on Election Day May 10 after 668 voters decided not to dissolve the authority, with 590 voters in favor. The decision came after the Athens City Council voted to dissolve the authority in January. AMWA scrambled to come up with enough signatures to push the decision to a vote decided by Athens residents.
Two Grand Jury Indictments: Two Athens residents were indicted by a Grand Jury in 2014. The first was Stacie Marie Parsons, 25, of Athens. Parsons confessed to killing her 4-year-old daughter July 21 after an argument with her common law husband the previous day. The other was Raheem Mark Miller, 19, of Athens. Raheem was charged with the June 8 shooting death of Malakoff resident Cedrick Collins, 23, whose death occurred during a robbery.
Bomb Threats: Athens had two bomb threat scares in about a two week time frame. The Henderson County Courthouse and all five Athens ISD schools were all evacuated on two separate dates. The courthouse threat was called in Oct. 23 and ISD threat came Nov. 5. No bombs were found and nobody was injured. Athens ISD is offering $1,000 to anyone with information that leads to the arrest of the person responsible for the threats on the schools.
New Athens Chamber President: After a long search, Mike Coston took over the job as the Athens Chamber of Commerce President last August. Coston replaced former president Mark Rathe, who moved back to Oklahoma to be closer to family.
Home of the Hamburger: Good Morning Texas filmed a live segment at the Athens city hall April 23 about Athens being the “Home of the hamburger.” According to many in Athens, the first hamburger in the world was taken from a small cafe in Athens all the way to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
Walk-a-Mile: Men put on their high heels for a stroll around the Athens square for the second year in a row for the annual Walk a Mile in her Shoes March 31. The event raises domestic violence awareness and challenges men to put an end to abuse.
Agriculturist of the Year: Ken McGee, Jr., won the Joe B. Fulgham Agriculturist of the Year award May 20 after the annual Farm and Ranch Tour. McGee’s father, Kenneth, won the same award in 1993.
Fertilizer plant fire: Just two week after claiming the Agriculturist of the Year award, McGee watched his storage facility near the courthouse square in Athens burn to the ground days before the Old Fiddler Reunion. The aftermath was initially investigated as a crime scene, but no wrongdoing was found. The fire sparked a blaze of controversy and media attention because the facility stores ammonium nitrate, the same substance found in the massive explosion in West. When the smoke cleared, the Athens City Council approved an ordinance in December not allowing the flammable fertilizer in a zoning district within city limits.
Old Fiddlers: With the area just off the square still on lockdown after the fire, Dale Morris Jr., of Fort Worth, went on to take home the title of Grand Champion at the Old Fiddler’s Reunion on the Athens square May 31.
County Courthouse 100th birthday: Henderson County residents and officials celebrated the 100th birthday of the Henderson County Courthouse May 23. Notable activity included a time capsule placed in the ground, to be opened up in 2114.
Troubled officer: Former Malakoff police officer Ernest Fierro lost his Peace Officer license in a settlement that included nine years deferred adjudication and 40 hours community service on the charge of aggravated assault. Fierro was off duty December 2013 when he stopped and cuffed an elderly Iowa man who later died of cardiac arrest.
Tragedy on the tracks: 14-year-old Malakoff resident Harry Smith died June 26 when he ran in front of a passing train while trying to cross the railroad tracks. Smith was clipped in the leg crossing from his home, directly south of the tracks at the intersection of the Union Pacific Railroad and FM 3441 and died from his injuries. A memorial for Smith was erected at Jake’s Skate Park in Malakoff.
New leader at the Performing Arts Center: Longtime Henderson County Performing Arts Center Executive Director Dennis Gilmore retired after 25 years of service last February. Gilmore oversaw a tremendous period of growth from the one-time “Athens Little Theatre.” Gilmore traded a home in Athens for the sunny beaches of Palm Spring, Calif. Marcia Colbert took over the role in March. Colbert has served on the HCPAC board since 2003.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Shirts were on display on the courthouse lawn last October as part of The Clothesline Project. The Clothesline Project is a world wide awareness program that is facilitated locally through the East Texas Crisis Center representing domestic violence victims in Henderson County.
ISD Chief resigns after theft: Former Malakoff ISD Police Chief Todd Gilmore resigned after making bond from the Henderson County Jail last May. Gilmore confessed to stealing $1,500 in cash from Carroll-Lehr Funeral Home in Athens after being confronted with video surveillance footage.
Cop killer gets execution date: Convicted killer Randall Wayne Mays knows when his final day will be. Mays was convicted of killing Henderson County deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn, in May 17, 2007 when they responded to Mays’ Payne Springs ranch on a domestic call. Mays execution date is set for March 18, 2015.
TVCC sports: Trinity Valley Community College saw muiltiple sports championships in 2014. The No. 1 ranked TVCC Lady Cardinals won their third consecutive national basketball championship March 22 at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kan. The match up was a repeat of the the 2012 title game. The Lady Cardinals now lay claim to eight titles, in 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Not to be outdone, the Cardinals football team won the Texas championship by defeating the Coffeyville Community College Red Ravens 27-24 in the Heart of Texas Bowl. They finished the year with a perfect 12-0 record.
Tigers Roar: The Malakoff Tigers football team fielded one of its best squads ever in 2014, maintaining a top-10 state ranking all season. The Tigers ended the season with a 9-2 record and a disapointing first round loss in the playoffs.
Posted by : December 30, 2014| On :
By David Webb
The News Correspondent
TRINIDAD–Retired Judge Ron Chapman and his wife, Sally, attended President Obama’s Christmas party at the White House Dec. 11, something they “never dreamed about being able to do” in their lifetimes.
“It was amazing,” Sally Chapman said after the couple returned home. “It was so beautiful and elegant. It was so exciting. It was just overwhelming.”
The vision of the lighted Christmas decorations on the first and second floor of the White House continues to thrill her, she said. “It was over the moon,” she said.
She said the best part of the experience though was the “reward” it represented for her husband, a longtime Democratic Party member.
“I was just so happy for him,” she said. “He loved it too.”
The trip came about as a result of a friend of Ron Chapman arranging the invitation. The friend asked the former judge if he would like to receive a Christmas card from President Obama, and he of course replied, “Yes.”
Then he received an e-mail asking for his Social Security number, address and other pertinent personal information in preparation for them attending the Christmas party. The couple, of course, wondered if it might be some sort of Internet scam, rather than a legitimate inquiry from the White House.
“Ron said, ‘Well, if it is a scam, it’s the best one I’ve ever seen,’” his wife said. A call to the judge’s friend revealed it was legitimate.
They received the invitation to the Christmas party about a week prior to their trip to Washington, D.C., and they made reservations to spend five days in the nation’s capital to see all of the historic sights.
Upon their arrival at the White House in the afternoon, it took about an hour for them to get through security. There were about 750 guests in attendance so the Chapmans only got a glimpse of the President and the First Lady, who descended to the second floor from a back staircase to greet the crowd.
The entertainment included the Marine Band, the St. Louis Carolers and an array of food on a 50-foot-long buffet table that offered everything imaginable to eat. President Obama and the First Lady danced during the party.
The Chapmans and other guests were free to roam throughout the first and second floors of the White House. Each room had a Christmas tree designed as a ball gown and a Secret Service guard who answered questions.
“I walked into one room where everything was blue so I said, ‘This must be the Blue Room,’” she said. The Secret Service agent joked back, “You are very observative.”
The rest of the stay in Washington, D.C. proved to be just as thrilling of an experience, she said. They toured the Smithsonian and visited as many national landmarks as they could.
Now, they are back at home, recovering from a bout of the flu, but the memories of their visit to the White House are comforting them through the aches and pains.