'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer' author Elmo Shropshire called a Massachusetts man whose annual Christmas display continued this year despite his battle with cancer.

By Alex Heigl
December 25, 2016 01:18 PM

Forty-four inflatable pieces and thousands of lights grace Leon Mathieu’s Raynham, Massachusetts, front yard every Christmas. Why should this one be any different?

“It’s a hobby of mine and I enjoy it. I do it really for the kids,” Mathieu told CBS.

But battling burnt-out lights and uncooperative displays are hardly the worst fight Mathieu’s had in his 54 years. For 30 years, Mathieu has struggled against cancer. He beat Ewing’s Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, twice; most recently, he survived pancreatic cancer. “They operated on me and removed a few organs out of me,” he bluntly explained to CBS.

But none of that has stopped Mathieu from putting up his Christmas display. This year, a large purple ribbon — the symbol for pancreatic cancer — hangs over his garage. It took three weeks for the retired snow plow driver to assemble the display, working as much as he was able to each day, sometimes only for an hour.

One of the inflatable displays is a reference to Elmo & Patsy’s 1979 novelty hit, “Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer,” and Mathieu got a Christmas memory for the ages when the song’s original singer, Elmo Shropshire, called him on the telephone and sang a bit of his signature tune.

The pair share an emotional bond: Shropshire’s mother-in-law died from pancreatic cancer, and he used to sing it to her to brighten her spirits as she fought.

“Yeah, that strikes a chord,” Mathieu told CBS. And Shropshire’s gesture “has really all made my holiday this year, it really has. Each holiday I get I count, this one will definitely be my most memorable.”