NEWS
12/20/2017 14:08 EST | Updated 12/21/2017 10:02 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 on Monday when the ladder he was on fell.  

"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."

"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

Scott Musson, 56, said in an interview Wednesday evening that his family thought they would have to cancel the Christmas display next year because his father was the sole provider. 

"Because of the support we are getting, both financially and mentally, we need to continue (the display)," he said. "Right now my plan is, whatever it takes, I want to do them next year. ... We don't want to disappoint so many people who have been so helpful."

Scott Musson, who has been unable to work since suffering a heart attack two years ago, said his family is touched by all the people who have visited the house, dropping off envelopes, candles and flowers.

"It's been unbelievable, we're been almost overwhelmed with it," Scott said. "It's almost been a full day today just trying to handle that aspect, which in a way is a good thing because it keeps our minds off of things.

"We knew lots of people came to see the lights, but he had no idea what it meant to a lot of people."

He described his father as a family man who would lend a hand to anyone in need. He and his father also created an elaborate display that included a motorcycle to honour his other son Cam, who died in a motorcycle accident.

Scott said his dad was "helpful, concerning and caring" person. He says he thinks that is one of the reasons so many people have reached out to his family.

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.

Musson is survived by his wife, Joanne, and children Scott, Gary and Debra.