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Posted on Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 5:51 a.m.

Ypsilanti's Diane and Kevin Kerr deck the White House halls with boughs and holly

By Janet Miller

Long-time Ypsilanti movers and shakers Diane and Kevin Kerr spent the week after Thanksgiving decking the halls with boughs and holly.

But these weren’t just any halls. These were the halls of the Blue Room, the Green Room and the visitor’s entrance to the White House. “It’s the ultimate decorating experience,” Diane said.


Kevin and Diane Kerr with a tree they helped decorate in the east reception room at the White House.

Photo courtesy of Diane Kerr

It was the second year in a row that the Kerrs, who own Dairy Queens in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, were selected to help decorate the White House for the holidays.

They spent five days making ornaments, stringing garland and hanging bulbs on some of the 51 live White House Christmas trees.

They applied for the honor, and were two of 140 people from around the nation selected to help out for the holidays at the White House. They cut their teeth on the nation’s Capitol when they helped decorate Nancy Pelosi’s office. Their daughter, Stacy Kerr, served as special assistant to the former House speaker.

This year, they worked on the Blue Room’s Christmas tree, an 18-foot fir with a military theme honoring Gold Star families, those who have lost a loved one. It is the largest of the interior White House trees and it was decorated with military patches and medals, Kerr said. She sorted through the letters from children of servicemen and women that were used on the tree.

“It was very moving and I eventually had to stop reading,” she said. “They were asking when their dads would come home or saying they hadn’t seen their dads in months.”

Some 85,000 visitors will go through the White House during the holidays, Kerr said.

Their first two days were spent in the warehouse, putting the hangers on the ornaments, selecting cards sent by children that were used in garlands and repurposing old ornaments. Last year’s silver ornaments, for example, were painted gold for this year’s trees, Kerr said.

While they didn’t see members of the first family — when first daughters Sasha and Malia came home from school, volunteers were shuttled out of the hallway — there were sightings of White House staff, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. “But we did see the president’s motorcade come and go,” Diane said.

And on the final day, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the crowd at a volunteer party.

While the Kerrs had free run of the public spaces, Diane spent time in a space off-limits to most: the infirmary. As she was wrapping up work in the Green Room, another volunteer was on a ladder applying hot glue to an ornament. The volunteer dropped the ornament and Kerr reached out to grab it, suffering a second-degree burn on the tip of a finger. She was taken to the White House physician who examined it. “It was for love of country,” Diane quipped. “All I could think of was I didn’t want to get glue on the White House carpet.”

There was an Ypsilanti connection to their work.

“In all the time we were at the White House, anytime we moved a ladder, climbed a ladder or touched a ladder, it was always with a 'Michigan Ladder made in Ypsilanti' sticker on it. It was a cool connection to home.” Michigan Ladder has been in Ypsilanti for more than 100 years.

And here's an ironic twist. The Kerrs don’t have a Christmas tree of their own. They spend Christmas in Florida and don’t bother with a tree.

“We rent a house next to the beach and we cut wrapping paper in the shape of a tree and tape it to the wall, using a beach towel for a Christmas tree skirt,” Diane said. “All of our Christmas things are back in Michigan.”


Anne Brandon

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 1:08 a.m.

It doesn't matter which political party you belong to, this is an incredible honor.I am thrilled to see a couple from my home town representing us so beautifully at our White House.The symbol of freedom,and democracy.Thank you for posting this positive story, it is nice to read something positive for a change!

Nancy B.

Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 9:22 p.m.

Nice story Diane and Kevin. And since my husband, the republican won't say it, I will. Thanks for representing!

Christine Moellering

Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

I want to know how to apply for his job or another job in the White House to volunteer to fix it up some year. That would be so amazing!!!


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

It is terrific to have an Ypsilanti couple such as Kevin and Diane help honor the members of the armed services and participate in celebrating Christmas at our nation's Capitol!


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

I'd love to know their qualifications for decorating a tree if all they own is a DQ or two which is to me? Is totally expensive and out right not as tasty as the one on Ecorse road which is all mom and pop shop. DQ shuts down by mid September. The other? November 1. So, unless they can tell how they know what to decorate? I say they are doing it because they voted dem and are dems themselves. They won't be in that house next year. Otherwise, nice tree. Guess they guessed on that one.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 6:32 a.m.

Reminds me of a song I heard ... You're a mean one, Mister Grinch You really are a heel, You're as cuddly as a cactus, you're as charming as an eel, Mister Grinch, You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel! You're a monster, Mister Grinch, Your heart's an empty hole, Your brain is full of spiders, you've got garlic in your soul, Mister Grinch, I wouldn't touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole! You're a vile one, Mister Grinch, You have termites in your smile, You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mister Grinch, Given a choice between the two of you I'd take the ... seasick crocodile! You nauseate me, Mister Grinch, With a nauseous super "naus", You're a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked hoss, Mister Grinch, You're a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich, with arsenic sauce! You're a foul one, Mister Grinch, You're a nasty wasty skunk, Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mister Grinch, The three words that describe you are as follows, and I quote, "Stink, Stank, Stunk!" You're a rotter, Mister Grinch, You're the king of sinful sots, Your heart's a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots, Mister Grinch, Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots!


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

What the heck are you talking about ?

Nancie Loppnow

Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

What a fantastic experience! The decorating spirit is alive in Ypsilanti tonight as Steve and Mary have opened their house for the Meals on Wheels Home Tour's Taste of Ypsilanti, the first part of the Holiday Home Tour. (All benefits go to Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels.) We are so glad the Kerr family is well-represented in both DC and Ypsi. NNL

joe golder

Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

If President Obama was smart he would offer them a gig!


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

They did and this is their last year in office.


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

Way to go, Kevin and Diane, sure looks like fun!


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

Not that it has anything to do with anything but was Kevin Kerr a school teacher for Ypsi ? at any rate pretty cool....and I don't even like the President


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 2:34 p.m.

@Bob......I bet you were one of my teachers...what subject did you teach ?


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

Bob Kerr was one of my teachers at the same time ( 70's although I can't say it was a pleasure lol he was really strict....really good teacher though ) I seem to remember Kevin being a substitute


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

His father, Bob Kerr, was a long-time History teacher in Ypsi. I had the pleasure of working with him at West Middle School in the '70s.

Tom Harrison

Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

Thank you Kevin and Diane for mentioning Michigan Ladder! What a great experience for the two of you.


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

What a honor.


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

What a gig! I have a friend who would give her husband's right arm to decorate a tree in the White House, just once! A real delightful story about Michigan pride. It's wonderful to read stories like this without worrying about someone's use of English or spelling. They are meant to be just what they are: stories of good will.

Jan C Taylor

Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

editted better in English

Jan C Taylor

Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

thanks for putting some meaningful and uplifting news in the mailbox. Good luck with getting the .com news better edited.