A tree for every room
Published 10:45 am Monday, December 31, 2012
BY ANDREW FAISON/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
CAPRON—Kathy Whitfield holiday décor includes 14 Christmas trees— one for every room of her Capron home — including a single tree with more than 10,000 ornaments.
“A few of my neighbors pointed out that our house was ‘the Christmas house’ of the neighborhood,” Whitfield said.
After retiring as counselor at the Deerfield Correction Women Center, the 58-year-old decided this year to inspire people by decorating and placing a tree in every room.
Nicknamed “Mrs. Santa Claus” by her former co-workers, Whitfield has had more than 40 visitors this seasons and has more calling.
“She puts so much time and energy and creativity into every little thing that she does,” said Whitfield’s daughter, Katina Woodley, 40.
Whitfield’s father died when she was 3 and was inspired to decorate by her mother, Isabella Warren.
“I have never seen a house decorated like this,” the 87-year old Warren said.
“Every Christmas my mother made sure we had a tree,” Whitfield added. “Even if that meant going in the woods and chopping a tree down, (and) throwing some tinsel on it. It was just amazing to us at that time.”
Whitfield wanted to continue conveying that spirit and opened her home to visitors. Her home is no stranger to guests as it has been visited by 200 to 300 visitors over the years to see Whitfield’s 31-year-old Christmas tree. The tree holds more than 10,000 ornaments, some dating back to 1972.
“The tree has such a history with all the different ornaments over the years,” Whitfield said. “People are just amazed to see it after finding out how many ornaments are on there.”
She knows the holiday season can be tough and hopes she can help brighten visitors’ days.
“When someone walks through the door and their face lights up, it is all worth it,” Whitfield said.
She did not begin decorating until after Thanksgiving and opened her home to the community the week before Christmas.
“It is just amazing to see the time, effort and the joy that she puts into this,” said Whitfield’s husband, Donnie. “It is rewarding to see her create these wonders and what they do to inspire the community.”
The 60-year-old notes that his wife purchases decorations anywhere she can find them.
“It’s just amazing to witness the awesome work she does,” Donnie Whitfield said. “She knows every one of her decorations by heart.”
With the response she has received from opening her house this year, Kathy Whitfield is planning for next year.
“My vision for next year is I would like to have more hands on stuff for kids when they come in that they can actually touch,” she said.
“If someone comes here and sees all of this and their attitude changes and they feel good their lives are going to be better,” said Kathy Whitfield. “That is what all this is for.”
As a tradition, the decorations come down before New Year’s Day.
“Everything goes back to normal on New Year’s,” Whitfield said.
The Whitfields are also the parents of Temekka Whitfield, a 35-year old teacher in Richmond, and Donovan Whitfield, a 31-year-old law student in O’Fallon Ill.; and grandparents of Cierra, 10; Donovan, 9; Tamia, 8; and Donte, 3.