An 86-year-old retiree, known as "Mr Christmas" for lighting his house with lights every year, died of colon cancer 24 hours before it was turned on.
Dave Edwards, 86, is known in his village of Croxley Green, Watford for covering his home with lights for the past 42 years.
The grandfather of two has added more lights every year, turning his house and garden into a Christmas wonderland.
Mr. Edwards had raised hundreds of pounds for charity over the years as hundreds of people traditionally gathered on the streets to watch the switch-on event.
This year's switch-on was different than & # 39; Mr Christmas & # 39; unfortunately died the day before. His daughter decided to grant her father's wish and turned on his light display last night.
That year his daughter Sharon Markham turned on the Christmas lights in his place. Pictured with her daughters Aimee Markham (13) (left) and Kiara Markham (16) (right)
Mr. Edwards was tragically diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer just last month and his health had deteriorated rapidly.
His daughter Sharon Markham, 50, turned on the Christmas lights for her father on Saturday night – after he promised her that if he couldn't make it, she would do it.
Ms. Markham, mother of Mr. Edwards' two grandchildren, Kiara, 16, and Aimee, 13, said: “The power on went as good as possible despite the rain.
& # 39; It was a very difficult day. I've been so numb and still in shock which probably got me through it all.
The turn-on event had become a tradition for the people of Croxley Green as hundreds gathered to watch it each year
“My father was such an amazing man, the church was devastated and the honors that flooded in are just breathtaking.
“We donated a three meter long Christmas tree and people stood in line for three days to hang ornaments on it. There were so many that we had to decorate other trees on the lawn and also hang some over the driveway.
& # 39; Dad never saw the tree but we told him about it and he said it was & # 39; wonderful & # 39 ;. He could hear people queuing outside so he still felt part of it.
“I know how much it would have meant to him. He really was a real hero.
"Heaven won an angel and now he's back with my mother, Mrs. Christmas, and they can light up heaven together."
Dave Edwards and his daughter Sharon Markham
Ms. Markham recalls that she was only eight years old when her father started his flashy Christmas shows around the house.
The tradition began when he was entering a lighting competition with a house across the street, she recalled.
But neighbors and locals soon loved and expected his colorful and extraordinary performances – and they became a popular attraction and event to kick off the Christmas season.
Ms. Markham and her husband Paul, who have helped him organize the event for the past 20 years, even made sure celebrities turn on the lights in recent years, including 2017 X-Factor winner Rak-Su .
Sharon joked, “As a teenager I was really embarrassed about all of this.
"Everyone knew my house as the Christmas house, and I would come home and find the driveway full of people trying to peek inside to see if it was decorated like it was outside."
But over the years, she's loved her father's crazy tradition more and more.
She said, “It gets bigger and better every year.
Grandfather of two added more lights every year
“We usually have an amazing grotto in the garden and we raise funds for various charities – Dogs Trust, homeless shelters, food banks.
"Usually about 2000 people come out to see the lights."
This year, of course, due to Covid, the event was a reduced family affair – and was instead broadcast live on the “Mr Christmas Fundraising Lights” Facebook page.
Ms. Markham organized a "fake" light on for her father's neighbors a few weeks ago so he could have one last chance to turn on the lights that were such a big part of his life.
And the video of it was available to his 2,500 Facebook followers while Sharon turned on the lights.
Meanwhile, some of Sharon's closest friends have set up a GoFundme page to help out with Sharon and her family following the death of & # 39; Mr Christmas & # 39; to support.
Mrs. Markham had arranged for the lights to be turned on early because of her father's poor health
Sharon's friend Amber Clarke has been attending the light switching events in the & # 39; Christmas House & # 39; since she was four. – and is now taking her five children with her.
She said, “I don't think I missed a year. It's just something that is taken for granted at Croxley.
“I never thought that I couldn't go to the Christmas house again.
"Dave has done so much for everyone in the community – we just wanted to start this fundraiser to thank him by helping his family and taking some pressure off after he died."
Amber added, “It was amazing. So many local businesses have donated. We raised over £ 300 in just two days – it's gone insane. & # 39;
And Sharon now hopes to use the donation money to save the “Christmas house” and keep it in the family – so that they can continue to put up Christmas lights in memory of their father.
She said, “This house means everything to me. I really want to find the means to keep it going. & # 39;
Hertfordshire Lieutenant Robert Voss CBE described Dave as a "hero" and "a really friendly star".
He expressed his condolences to Sharon and said, “We are very sorry to hear this sad news.
“Your father was unique – a real star and a hero in my eyes. It was an honor and a privilege to have known him – albeit for too short a time.
“What Dave has given the community around him for fun and so much money for so many purposes is something you should be extremely proud of.
& # 39; Dave Edwards are a rarity in this world. May he rest in peace. & # 39;
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