W.Va. Couple Donates White House Christmas Tree for Fourth Time

The Sundbacks say they've perfected the method of growing a perfect tree.

ByABC News
November 26, 2009, 12:54 PM

Nov. 27, 2009— -- When Eric and Gloria Sundback began growing Christmas trees more than 50 years ago on a small farm in northwest Pennsylvania, little did they know their passion for raising the "perfect tree" would land them in the history books: four times.

The Shepherdstown, W.Va., couple, now in their 80s, today delivered a precisely 18½ foot Douglas fir to Michelle Obama at the White House, where the tree will stand in the Blue Room throughout the holidays.

"I'm giving the best house in the land a Christmas tree," Eric Sundback said proudly.

"It's always a thrill," his wife said. "Nice to see one of them end up as the White House Christmas tree."

The Sundbacks' trees have won four National Christmas Tree Association contests, including this year's, each time receiving the honor of donating a tree from their farm to the first family.

They delivered their first tree to Rosalyn Carter in 1979, and had two winning trees in the White House during Ronald Reagan's presidency.

This year the couple selected a perfectly shaped, 1,500-pound Douglas fir as a "gift to the White House and American people," Gloria Sundback said.

"This tree was one we had selected to send to the seed orchard," she said. "But when we came to dig this one, they couldn't get the spades down. … He was on a rock, and so we said, 'Well, that's a nice tree, so we'll just leave it there.'"

The Sundback's cut down the tree Wednesday and prepared to transport it to Washington. But they showed little remorse for losing one of their own.

"It's time to do it, it's joy to see them go for Christmas trees," Eric Sundback said. "It's either now or it's toilet paper later."

The Douglas fir joins 15 other trees hand-picked by the chief White House usher and destined for rooms in the White House, including the Oval Office.