County native creates White House ornament

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Christmas ornament that hung on the large Fraser fir in the Blue Room of the White House featured a snow-covered barn that was once used by the Decocq family on their farm near Wheaton. Dr. Rebecca Decocq Burrell, a southwest Missouri artist and Barry County native, decorated one of the 369 ornaments that were displayed on the President's tree this year.

"The ornament features an elegant blue bird on one side and a farm scene on the other," said Dr. Burrell, who is a graduate of Wheaton High School. "It is all tied together by the red, white and blue theme that the First Lady requested."

When Congressman Roy Blunt invited Dr. Burrell, who is an adjunct professor at Drury University in Springfield, to decorate the Christmas ornament for Missouri's 7th District, she decided the holiday globe should include an image of rural southwest Missouri.

"This is one of the old barns on the Decocq farm where my sister, Wanna Jean Decocq, still resides," said Dr. Burrell. "I painted it from memory. This is how it looked in my childhood."

On Dec. 2, all of the artists who decorated ornaments for the White House Christmas tree were invited to a special reception that was hosted by First Lady Laura Bush. Dr. Burrell's 8-year-old granddaughter, Alexis Pinegar, accompanied her to the reception.

"It was beautiful to experience the occasion through the eyes of a child," said Dr. Burrell. "My granddaughter was mesmerized by the event and the whole notion of the White House being such a homey place. She was awestruck by one moment after another."

Pinegar had the opportunity to stand near the First Lady during an address that was given in honor of the artists.

"I was delighted when Congressman Blunt asked me to take on this creative opportunity," said Dr. Burrell. "It was a wonderful experience seeing the southwest Missouri ornament as part of the national tree. Our ornament added a bit of extra sparkle to our national Christmas celebration."

The First Lady invited all United States senators and representatives to recruit artists to create this year's Christmas ornaments.

"Rebecca is a talented artist and gifted teacher," said Blunt. "I knew she could capture the uniqueness of southwest Missouri and send an ornament that would make us proud of the work done by artists in our district."

In addition to a blue bird and a rural farm scene, Missouri's 7th District ornament also features a flowering Dogwood.

To view photos of other White House Christmas tree ornaments can visit

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