Long time Bonita Springs resident (now deceased), Bernice Ciaffone, served in diplomatic service in the White House in Washington, D.C. After settling in Southwest Florida, she and her husband kept in touch with associates and friends who continued to work at the White House and some who were affiliated with the White House Historical Society.
Knowing that Ciaffone and her husband were involved with the Bonita Historical Society, formed in 1984, they encouraged the couple to offer the official White House Christmas ornament, which is issued annually, as a means to raise funds for the fledgling group.
Ciaffone proposed the idea to the members, who agreed that they would go ahead with the plan. So for the past 25 years, the Bonita Springs Historical Society has offered White House Christmas ornaments for sale, year round.
Each year, these exclusive ornaments depict a different figure or event in American history. The 2009 ornament honors Grover Cleveland, as our 24th president. The front of the gold plated ornament depicts a snowy white house, encircled with white and blue painted snowflakes, with the inscription, “The White House Christmas 2009.”
The reverse side, in rhythmic poetry, declares, “There will be a great Christmas tree, gorgeous in its beautiful trimmings ‘and all sorts and conditions of dolls and toys of every description,’” with the words, “1894 first Christmas tree with electric lights” beneath. The words recall the tree trimming parties and Cleveland’s enjoyment of his young family during the holidays.
Each ornament is boxed in light blue with the words “White House” scripted across the front and includes an informative booklet written by noted historian William Poole — describing the presidency or event commemorated by the ornament.
Other ornaments depict a seated Abraham Lincoln in a book style ornament which actually opens, the wedding of Grover Cleveland (2007 ornament) and Teddy Roosevelt, who had children during his presidency (2003 ornament).
For $20, the ornaments make an exceptional keepsake and thoughtful gift, not only for those interested in history or Americana, but also for any citizen or student and for any special occasion.
“We are glad that we are able to remember Bernice and the work she did in bringing these special treasures to the society and to the public. She was a guiding factor in this project,” said Liz Sturgis, past society secretary.
The 2009 ornament, as well as ornaments of the past 28 years, is available for purchase and for order at the Liles Research Center, located on the second floor of the Liles Hotel in Riverside Park. The hotel, one of the oldest buildings in downtown Bonita Springs, was built in 1926 and 1927 by J. Wallace Liles of Ozark, Ala., at what was then the Imperial River Court tourist camp.