From deep sorrow spectacular holiday tradition is born
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent December 16, 2012 11:54PM
The computerized Christmas light display houses at 25314 and 25304 South Plainview Dr. in Channahon, Tuesday December 11, 2012. | Ray Luna ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 18, 2013 6:04AM
Ryan Anderson of Channahon was outside making adjustments on the spectacular holiday light show he and his wife Deann share with their neighbors, Kris and Kristen Koppers, when a woman stopped him.
“She had been at Dunkin Donuts with her daughter and had seen the lights flashing,” Anderson said. “She just had to stop by.”
No one would guess that, behind this enchanting, musical show on Plainview Drive in Hunter’s Crossing West subdivision, deep sorrow is lurking.
In February, Kristen’s father, a Vietnam veteran, lost this fight against the cancer in his pancreas, gallbladder, liver and lungs. Deann’s father is still waging a fierce war against his cancer, despite losing both kidneys to it.
But these two brave mothers wanted both of their 3-year-old children, Jakob Koppers and Emma Anderson, to feel the love, joy and peace of this celebratory time of year. They also wished to honor their respective fathers’ legacy of lives well-lived. So they engaged the support of their husbands and created a showpiece of majestic beauty.
“Jakob knows his grandfather is gone but we didn’t want him to be sad. We wanted to celebrate,” Kristen said. “He loves seeing the lights flicker back and forth. He says they’re dancing for him.”
Kristen’s father, John Biksacky of Channahon, was first diagnosed with cancer in July 2010 during treatment for a stomachache. John, Kristin said, had strong morals and always worked hard for his family. Jakob was his only grandchild. Kristen’s mother, Dianne Biksacky, who lives several doors down, is enjoying the light show on his behalf.
“We try not to make too much reference to my dad because it’s still hard on her,” Kristen said.
Although Deann’s father, Michael Cox, 56, of Oak Forest, is undergoing dialysis treatments, he still works every day — sometimes 50 hours a week — as head engineer at Morgan Park High School in Chicago.
Michael recently walked Deann’s sister, Michelle Synowiecki, down the aisle and participated in the traditional father/daughter dance.
“He found out about the cancer after she got engaged,” Deann said, “so he was really hoping to be there.”
Fortunately, both families began discussing their display idea a year ago. They took advantage of post-holiday sales and stocked up on lights at bargain basement prices. Kris spent many hours watching YouTube videos of other people’s creations. He then purchased a computer program to facilitate the design.
Kris estimates each tree — and Ryan has decorated six — contains approximately 1,600 lights with about 20,000 to 30,000 total used for the entire display. It took Ryan several weeks, working nights and full weekends, to hang everything in place. Kris is already modifying the program for next year since he wants to use more focused light color instead of the simpler multicolor design.
An FM transmitter — with a sign in the yard informing people where to tune in — provides the accompanying music so the neighbors aren’t subjected to it and revelers aren’t rolling down their windows on a cold wintry day. The station only picks up near the house.
“I like traditional songs, so that’s what I used, but I had to pick songs that worked,” Kris said. “Not every song matched the flashing lights.”
The two families have endured some frustration of replacing lights when an occasional Scrooge does some snipping, but the enjoyment of passers-by has made the entire project more than worthwhile. Deann said her father always looked forward to holiday decorating, so she enjoys heading outside with Emma and Brayden, 8 months, where they bask in the scene.
“My daughter is in awe. She thinks it’s magic,” Deann said. “The baby is too little to understand but his eyes get real big.”