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A Christmas tradition shines on in Hamburg

The DellaNeve home on Clark Street in Hamburg had been famous for nearly 20 years by the time The Buffalo News chose it as one of its “best decorated” houses for Christmas in 1993.

The displays had grown more ambitious every year, flowing down from the house on the hill across the wide lawn until the lights had become a landmark.

Domenick DellaNeve, a retired postal worker and part-time employee of Buffalo Raceway, told The News back then, “For no apparent reason that I could see, we just started doing it. Before you knew it, (the decorations) were down to the street,” he said at the time. “We wouldn’t care if nobody came to see. When people do come, that’s so much the better.”

And people did come to see by the hundreds, even thousands.

A few years later, the family considered stopping, when DellaNeve’s wife, Josephine, died in 1999. But with help from his family, Domenick DellaNeve continued decorating: stars atop 60-foot pine trees, homemade figures, Santa and his reindeer, a creche, a “Merry Christmas” sign, and lights lining the driveway came back, year after year, including 2013, which would be Domenick DellaNeve’s last Christmas on Clark Street.

Domenick DellaNeve died in April at age 88, and with the house cleaned out and put up for sale, it seemed as though the tradition would die with him.

Instead, for one more year, the lights will go on.

One of the couple’s three sons, Gary DellaNeve, posted on Facebook about the 12-day process of building a new version of his parents’ masterpiece. With almost all of the original decorations gone, he was starting nearly from scratch:

“(I’ve) been putting up the lights on Mom and Dads house for 38 years,” he wrote. “Over that 38 years the people of WNY have named it ... The Christmas House ... In my 39th year of doing this I’m going to attempt to do it myself. But (I’m) sure Mom and Dad will be right by my side as they always have been.”

It wasn’t easy. He wrote on Dec. 8: “On my way to Mom and Dads today I had the Santa and his little Reindeer tied across the top of the truck. The whole rig is about 20 feet long. Going down Powers (Road) over the 219 the wind (caught) it and ripped it off the truck. What a mess. There I was on the side of the Powers rd picking up the pieces. Somehow I’ll glue it all back together again.”

He was able to spend two or three hours each day putting up the lights, he said in his posts, and he thanked friends and neighbors for bringing him coffee and lending a hand. He finished the front of the house on Day 5, he wrote, except for a couple of finishing touches: two intertwined hearts, one purple, for his father the World War II veteran, and one pink, for his mother, who had battled breast cancer for years.

By Day 11, “Santa and his Buds” were rockin’ the lawn, and on Day 12, he lighted the huge evergreen by the street, full of white lights and, Gary wrote, his father’s favorite decoration of all.

After he was off the roof and done with the lawn, Gary DellaNeve wrote a tribute to his parents:

“Dad was the backbone. He never left her side from the day they met. When She had passed in May of 1999 the first thing my Dad said to me was ... What are we gonna do about the lights???

“I had to laugh cuz thats what I was thinking ...The family could write a book on Mom and Dads Christmas house. And Friends could do the same. The story’s are endless. A lot a GREAT times!!!”

So, for at least one more year, the house on the hill at 4663 Clark St. has lights along the driveway, Santa and his reindeer flying low on the lawn and, over the now-darkened windows of Hamburg’s Christmas House, the two bright hearts of Domenick and Josephine DellaNeve shine on as the season comes to a close.