NEWS
12/20/2017 12:44 EST | Updated 12/20/2017 13:01 EST

Man behind Burlington, Ont., Christmas display dies after ladder falls from roof

An Ontario man known for decking his house in brilliant Christmas lights for more than three decades died this week after falling from his roof while tending to the annual display, his family said as members of the community mourned his death.

The family of Douglas Musson of Burlington, Ont., said the 82-year-old had been trying to fix a leak Monday when the ladder he was on fell. He died in hospital, the family said. 

"He was up on a ladder trying to find out why water was dripping on the pathway which might drip on visitors to the display, when the ladder fell," the family said in a statement on its website. "He died in hospital."

Musson began decorating his home with lights in Calgary before moving to Burlington in 1976, the family said. He had been adding more lights and figures to his display each year, and eventually the home on Spruce Avenue became known as Burlington's "Griswold house," after the brightly lit home in the film "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation."

The Musson family expressed grief at the sudden loss just before Christmas.

"Our family is devastated. I debated even turning on the lights but decided he would want them on and he worked hard on making all of the displays," Musson's son Scott wrote in the online post, adding it could be the last year for the annual display.

"Dad was the breadwinner of the family with a small business providing the only income to this family and we will be financially devastated."

Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring was one of several community members expressing their condolences to Musson's family.

"This is very sad news for Burlington and our residents because the Mussons have been lighting up their house for decades in the city for decades," Goldring said in an interview Wednesday. "It has been a tradition for so many families to visit the Musson family's home every year — they were called the Griswolds of Burlington."

Since Monday, GoFundMe pages have been set up to raise money for the family, with one raising more than $9,000 by Wednesday afternoon.

The page description for one of the fundraisers asks people to donate to help the family and also for "the hope to keep the lights aglow in memory of the man who made everyone's Christmas around him merry and bright."

"Visiting this home has been a tradition since I was a little girl and it breaks my heart to hear of this tragedy in the community, and especially so close to Christmas," one donor wrote online.

An obituary posted online said a visitation service for Musson is scheduled for Dec. 27 and a funeral will be held the next day.