Rohn Brown’s Christmas legacy lives on in Nanaimo, where his friends and family have come together to decorate his house in full festive gear — just like he would’ve wanted.
“He was St. Nick,” said Dianne Brown, recalling holiday memories with Rohn, whom she was married to for 40 years. “He just enjoyed Christmas so much, making everybody happy and the children happy and making our family happy.”
The father of six passed away earlier this spring, and, mere moments before saying her final goodbye, an idea popped into Dianne’s head — to decorate their Sams Way home for Christmas as Rohn did, famously, for decades.
That means a big North Pole-like display filled with thousands of colourful lights and lawn decor, including snowmen, penguins and even the Grinch, all in Rohn’s honour.
“We decided back in April, just before I took him off life support,” Dianne said. “I don’t know why I thought of it at that time, but I did, that we would do one last big hoorah for dad. And I wanted to do his light display. And we all agreed.”
Flash forward to today and, thanks to help from good friends, the house is decorated, although “probably not as perfect as the way Rohn did it,” Dianne said. “He’s probably chuckling going, ‘I didn’t do it this way or that way.'”
After all, Christmas at the Brown house was well thought out by Rohn, who would begin strategizing and buying decorations months and months in advance.
“He would start thinking about it right after Christmas, his theme and how he was going to present it the following year,” Dianne recalled. “And he’d probably start in October doing the lights, one light at a time to make sure that every single light worked on the string of lights.”
Even his Facebook page looked like Santa’s.
“I mean, he had pictures of family, but his very first picture was what he was going to buy for Christmas,” Dianne said with a laugh. “No photos of the dog. It’s all Christmas stuff.”
But calling Rohn the big man in red isn’t much of a stretch, considering he used to dress up as him from time to time, whether at care homes, boys and girls clubs, or skating parties, according to Dianne.
“He played Santa at so many different places,” she said. “To me, he just loved Christmas, and he was the kindest, most generous person who would do anything for you.”
Kim MacGillivray, Rohn’s daughter, is happy with how this year’s display turned out, especially after she put out a call on social media for people to come and help set it all up.
“It was his most favourite time of the year, and I think because we know how much Christmas meant to dad, it was just something that we really wanted to do in his name and memory,” MacGillivray added.
“It’s not everything, but it’s a little bit, and it’s just a sense of healing and closure and knowing he’s close for the holidays.”