All decked out for Christmas

The main tree in Mali and Toney Minter’s house stands 14-feet tall and fills the living room with Christmas cheer. Each ornament on the tree holds a special meaning for the couple. The tree is one of 11 the Minters decorate each year. S. Stewart photo
The main tree in Mali and Toney Minter’s house stands 14-feet tall and fills the living room with Christmas cheer. Each ornament on the tree holds a special meaning for the couple. The tree is one of 11 the Minters decorate each year. S. Stewart photo

From a young age, Pocahontas County High School Spanish teacher Mali Minter has loved decorating for Christmas. Her love of holidays and Christmas in particular has grown through the years to the point where she now has 11 trees on display throughout her three-story home in Arbovale.

“I’ve always decorated,” she said. “My grandma started giving us ornaments when we were little, and I’ve had my own tree – probably since elementary school. I’ve always loved decorating, in fact, I love all holidays. One of my mom’s friends, before we got married, actually had a holiday shower for me and people were assigned certain holidays.”

As Mali’s collection of ornaments grew, the number of trees grew, as well. When she and her husband, NRAO Head of GBT science operations Toney Minter, moved to Green Bank in 1995, Mali began decorating the trees with themes.

When they moved to their current home which is much larger, the tree collection grew to a total of 11, including a 14-foot tree in the living room, mini trees in the bathrooms, a red and white star tree and collegiate trees.

Although it’s hard to pick a favorite, Mali said there are ones that stick out to her.

“I’d have to say the red and white star one upstairs [is a favorite],” she said. “To me, it’s beautiful. But our big tree, there’s not one plain bulb on it and I can tell you where I got every single ornament or where Toney got every single ornament on there. They’re all gifts and they were all personal. It’s really special. When I’m decorating it, I’ll be like ‘oh, my sister gave me this one or my mom gave me this one when I was in high school, or my grandma gave me this one when I was ten-years-old.’”

Some of the trees may not have a traditional Christmas theme, but they do hold memories for the couple.

“I do like having our themed ones,” Mali said. “The college ones make us smile and the sports one is just ugly, but it’s fun.”

The sports tree provides a little competition for the pair. Mali is a fan of the Minnesota Vikings, while Toney supports the Washington Redskins. This year, the teams played each other and the Vikings won, which gave the Viking ornaments top position on the sports tree.

“Usually the Redskins are at the top and the Vikings are at the bottom to go with the tree skirt, but since they won, I had to put them on the top,” Mali said laughing, ribbing her husband.

Along with the sports tree, the basement is decorated with a train tree representing Toney’s love of trains. A Virginia Tech tree and an Iowa State tree celebrate the couple’s alma maters.

“Toney went to Virginia Tech for undergrad and then we both went to Iowa which is how I got the tree for the bathroom,” Mali said. “The bathroom tree is Iowa because he went there, too, so I got to make the whole room Iowa. When it came to buying the trees, I was able to buy that one [Virginia Tech] in six feet, but Iowa is so popular they were sold out of that one. That’s what I tell him. That’s why I have a little Iowa one.”

One theme tree, the Feliz Navidad tree, began with an ornament Mali’s mom bought her when she was in college.

“It was the first year they came out with them and it was a series,” Mali said. “She got it because I was studying Spanish. She had no idea that I was going to be a Spanish teacher. Obviously, I was a lawyer and all that. She gets me one every year and I’ve had some students give me some, and Toney and I have gotten some when we’ve gone to Mexico and Spain.”

Mali’s students also made ornaments for a tree in her classroom. This year, three of the students – Linzi Myers, Marilyn Creager and Lara Baudler – went above and beyond by helping Mali and Toney decorate.

“This year, I got sick right before Thanksgiving and I was in the hospital for a couple of days, so all Thanksgiving break I slept,” she said. “I went to school the next week and I was just moaning in my class, and a couple of my girls said, ‘we’ll come.’ I had three girls come and they decorated all the upstairs. They were here for four hours. It would have taken me over four hours just to do the star tree. It was just so wonderful.”

Joining the trees are a collection of Santas, including a five-foot version of the jolly old man that sings and dances.

It may take a lot of time and effort to decorate for Christmas, but once it’s finished the couple can sit back and enjoy their collections.

“I see different ones every time I sit down here,” Mali said of the ornaments on the 14-foot tree. “I like to sit in front of the trees and read.”

The house is aglow and it’s obvious this couple is full of the Christmas spirit.

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at

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