Local family has a unique connection to President George H.W. Bush

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WHITEHOUSE (WTVG) - A local family had a unique opportunity to meet President George Herbert Walker Bush at his Presidential Library in Texas. It all came about because of a tree and a Hollywood star.

A lot of people get their trees from the Wheeler family's Whitehouse Christmas Tree Farm. However, the most famous customer of all is President Bush.

The farm has been a popular spot for generations of families.
Duke Wheeler says he's always dreamed about getting a tree into The White House, so he asked his friend and Toledo native Jamie Farr about helping make that happen. Farr made a call to his friend President Bush.

While the tree didn't go to Washington, it did make it to the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, "When they called and said President Bush would like to meet my family, I couldn't believe that a President wants to meet a Christmas tree farmer. I was in shock and we were all excited. I got a haircut and we flew to Texas the Monday after Thanksgiving."

Wheeler and his family made that trip to Texas in 2003, "President Bush was warm, kind and gentle. He listened to every word my kids said. He asked about where they were in school and what they were doing. He was interesting, and a gentle man. We take pride in everything we grow on the farm and we are thrilled for our trees to go to local homes. However, when a tree goes to a president, that's the ultimate reward."

President Bush invited them into his office and they got a special tour of the library. But Wheeler says there was one thing missing that magical day, "The sad thing about our visit was that Barbara wasn't there. She was having their bathroom remodeled, so she couldn't join us for the tree experience." Based on his experience in Texas, Wheeler thinks we could all learn something from the 41st President, "The tone in America right now is pretty tough. We all soften up a bit at Thanksgiving and Christmas and we need to extend that season. If we take his life as an example, we could all learn a lot."

Wheeler says he'll be forever grateful for that moment in time with President Bush, "He was an every man's man. He was a family man. He was a great neighbor, a great friend. What an incredible experience it was to get to know him for that short period of time. "

So just how do you get an 11-foot Frasier fir halfway across the country? The fir was packed in a custom container made by a Toledo company and then shipped by FedEx to College Station.

Wheeler is still hoping to one day get one of his trees from Whitehouse to The White House.