Mo. holiday ornament focuses on tornado recovery

EUREKA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's ornament for the 2011 National Christmas Tree display in Washington will honor the state's ongoing recovery from devastating tornadoes like the one that killed 161 people in Joplin in May.

And for the second year in a row, a St. Louis County woman has the honor of designing and creating the ornament for Missouri's tree, The Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis (http://bit.ly/uZ9GF7) reported.

The national tree is surrounded by smaller trees representing the states, District of Columbia and U.S. territories. Each tree is covered by an ornament of a single design.

The National Parks Foundation asks each governor to choose a professional artist from his or her state to design that state's annual ornament.

For this year's tree, Michelle "Mike" Ochonicky, of Eureka, designed a reverse-glass painted ornament that features silver stars rising up on shimmery strokes to symbolize Missouri's recovery from tornadoes. The ornament also includes a pine bough and pine cone on one side and a lighted candle and wrapped gift on the other, all set against a background of purple and blue that represents a winter sky. The word "Missouri" rings the top of each of this year's ornament. And the year is painted at the bottom of each sphere

Students from East Middle School in Joplin are working with Ochonicky to create 23 copies to cover the state tree, the artist said. The governor chooses which school will help reproduce the ornaments.

Ochonicky said that when the governor's office called this year, "They asked if I would mind commuting to Joplin to design the ornament and have it replicated. I said it would be an honor. It was so heartwarming to work with those kids."

Her original ornament will be in the White House visitors' center on the Christmas tree in the center. A copy will hang in the Missouri state Capitol.

Ochonicky's ornaments are painted on the inside of the spheres, which are separated into a bottom and top for the painting and then put together.

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