Beloved Burlington Christmas display house founder dies after inspecting home

Click to play video: 'Family behind popular Burlington Christmas display vows to press on after death of patriarch'
Family behind popular Burlington Christmas display vows to press on after death of patriarch
WATCH ABOVE: Doug Musson established the colourful holiday display outside his family's Spruce Avenue home more than 30 years ago. He died tragically after falling off a ladder Monday. Mark Carcasole reports – Dec 20, 2017

Doug Musson, the driving force behind a well-known Christmas display house in Burlington, Ont., has died after falling off a ladder while inspecting his home.

Musson, 82, was on a ladder trying to find out why water was dripping onto a pathway earlier this week when he fell. He was taken to hospital where he later died.

“It doesn’t seem real. I’m numb. Dad and I were really, really close,” Scott Musson, Doug’s son, told Global News Wednesday.

“Obviously we live in the same house together and we do all of this together. I would never do it without him, and he would never do it without me.”

WATCH: Residents mourn tragic death of beloved Christmas display creator

Click to play video: 'Residents mourn tragic death of beloved Christmas display creator'
Residents mourn tragic death of beloved Christmas display creator

Doug and Scott worked together for more than 30 years, gradually building up a massive collection of lights and figures that annually adorn the family’s Spruce Avenue house. Scott said the tradition first began in Calgary, but after the family moved to Burlington and put wire-framed reindeer on the roof, they noticed people began to stop at the house. He said they outlined the house with lights and eventually filled in the outline.

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“We like to do stuff no one else has,” Scott said, noting the newest Christmas-themed display is a pink hippopotamus jumping out of a present.
Scott said the timing of his father’s death, given how important Christmas was to them both, makes it especially difficult.

“It would be hard anytime, but had it happened any time other than the week before Christmas it would have made things easier,” he said.

As news of Doug’s death spread in the community, the Musson family received many notes of thanks and condolence.

“The outpouring of love and compassion has just been wonderful. I never expected any of this,” Joanne Musson, Doug’s wife of 60 years, said.

“Every little note, every little card… the letters we get, the beautiful flowers and things – it just makes me feel how much my husband was loved.”

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Officials and community members paid tribute to Musson on social media after they learned of his death.

“This is devastating news. Doug and the Musson family have provided #BurlON with a wonderful display of Christmas Lights on their home for many, many years,” Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring said while expressing his condolences to the Musson family on Twitter.

“The Musson family of #BurlON have brought joy to many children and visitors with their fantastic Christmas displays. It was an annual holiday highlight for my family. My condolences on the passing of Doug Musson,” Michael Demone tweeted.

“Anyone who’s lived in #BurlON no doubt knows of the Musson’s Christmas Light display. I loved running over to see the lights every year! So sad to hear of the passing of Doug Musson,” Dee Thomson wrote on Twitter.

The annual Christmas display partially operates on community donations. The family said Doug was the main income earner and the donations have been used to help with hydro and equipment costs.

In a GoFundMe page setup by resident Nikki Accord, which has now been closed and replaced by another one set up by a family friend, she reiterated how visiting the Christmas display has become a tradition for many and noted how tragedy has affected the family before.

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“Often referred to as the Burlington Griswold house, every year it just keeps getting better and better and every year every Burlingtonian keeps the tradition and has to go see the Musson Christmas light display,” Accord wrote.

“A friend of the family (Elizabeth) has also created a GoFundMe page and being as she knows the family personally I feel it appropriate that she take over and continue to raise funds to help with Mr. Musson’s funeral arrangements, families (sic) needs and hope to keep the lights aglow to allow so many of us to keep the homes love for Christmas in our family traditions.”

When asked how the family will move forward with the annual Christmas tradition, Scott said he has one new skill to learn – something his dad was forced to learn very quickly as they expanded the display.

“God willing we’ll still be living here and we’ll still do it next year. It’s almost like we feel like we have to for all the thankfulness that has been given by the community.”

Scott said the response from residents has been particularly meaningful to him.

“It makes us so happy we live here, which is one of the reasons we never want to move. There’s so much love in this community,” he said.

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“A lot of people joke with me and say I’m crazy because I do it. They call me the Griswold of Burlington, but I think if they see what’s happening right now – or they see what I see and what my family sees – they understand why we do it.”

Meanwhile, residents have been encouraged on Facebook to visit the family’s home at 3360 Spruce Ave. in the days before Christmas as a “thank you to Doug Musson.” The display is scheduled to operate until Jan. 1.

According to an obituary posted online, visitation for Musson is scheduled for Dec. 27 and a funeral is scheduled for Dec. 28.

With files from Mark Carcasole

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