Step into "Wild Kingdom" at Toy Coffee
Gisela Houseman will be opening her home for the Orange Service League’s Annual Toy Coffee which has been the organization’s Christmas “fun” raiser for over 40 years. Admission to the event is a new, unwrapped toy or a cash donation that will be given to the Salvation Army.
Making sure area children have a happy holiday is just one of the ways the service league benefits the Orange area. Volunteers celebrated the league’s 50th anniversary last year. The Toy Coffee started just a few years after the organization’s inception.
Each year the service league offers tours of a home dressed for the holidays. The Houseman home is unusual compared to most on display in the past, because the late Tony Houseman was an avid wildlife hunter. The home is filled with trophies from his excursions from around the world. Not far from the Christmas tree is a stuffed and mounted Red Stag standing five feet tall with a magnificent rack. A wild stuffed cat lounges on the mantel, amid Christmas decor, while the wall is filled with mounted trophies from every animal imaginable.
There are enormous walrus tusks on display. “When Tony was hunting in Alaska they found a dead walrus on the beach. We got permission from U. S. Fish and Wildlife to display the tusks…because you really can’t hunt walrus,” she said.
Standing on a huge boulder attached to the wall eight feet up is a Himalayan Tahr, which is kin to a wild goat.
The stairs draped in garland, are flanked with deer heads on one side and replica elephant tusks standing on either side of an arch reaching eight feet into the air. “Tony didn’t hunt elephants,” Houseman said.
The home was not the original selected for this year. That home was flooded during Hurricane Ike.
“They called in a panic,“ said Houseman.
“We asked her and she graciously accepted,” said Cindy Lucia, the Toy Coffee publicity chairman.
“I’m happy to do it, gosh, they were just so wonderful,” said Houseman. “They came and decorated everything.”
Using mostly Houseman’s own decorations, they supplemented in a few areas where it needed more.
Houseman is building a walkway before the event, “…because this is the back of the house and nobody ever goes to the front,” she said. It was something she and Tony had planned for years.
“It’s wonderful because, I had damage from Rita, and you know, it’s like the cobbler’s son has no shoes…the builder is at the bottom of the list…so, my house had never been painted and fixed after Rita.” They repaired the roof, but never got around to painting.
“When this came up, I said, okay, I’m moving to the top!”
Painting was finished Monday and the exterior of the home will be decorated before the event.
Built in 1994, the home was designed by the Housemans.
“The joy of our life has been the yard,” said Houseman. Set on 17 acres, there are over 4,000 lilies planted. Tony bought over 400 the month before he died.
“We have just received…this past week, the Tony Houseman Lily from the Jack Carpenter Lily Farm. We have it planted and it will be blooming in April.” Jack Carpenter designed the Lily specifically in honor of Tony and his love of daylilies.
If you would like to see the Houseman home it will be open for touring from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, Thursday, Dec. 4.
The Houseman home is located at 12359 FM 1442. (North off Interstate 10 west, first house on left.)
For more information contact chairman Pat Nash at 886-1795 or co-chairman Cheryl Sargent at 882-9719.