Jack Kammer, the man responsible for a longstanding and popular holiday lights display on Madison's Near West Side, died Thursday night after complications from a fall, his son confirmed Friday. He was 83.
Kammer started putting lights up on more than 200 trees at the back of his property along University Avenue some 18 years ago, and it soon became a Madison holiday tradition visible to thousands of motorists traveling the busy route. The evergreen trees were planted to provide a barrier between Kammer's dental office parking lot and the railroad tracks. Once they were mature, he had them strung with lights between Thanksgiving and New Year's. As of 2008, there were about 135,000 lights displayed.
His son, Chris Kammer, said the lights were made possible because of volunteers who helped put them up and take them down, and donations to a fund for them at M&I Bank. Kammer said he would "absolutely" keep the display going as long as volunteers and donations keep coming.
The display "warmed so many hearts beyond his wildest dreams, and that made him extremely happy," Kammer said. Dedicated to Jack Kammer's foster mother who took care of him from the age of 2, Chris Kammer said his father wanted the lights to be special for everyone and not just for a specific holiday.
For many years, Jack Kammer had help from his brother Marvin, a former Madison firefighter, in putting up the lights. Marvin died in 2006.
Jack Kammer was a full-time dentist for 50 years and was well-known for founding the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, which now has close to 10,000 members from all over the world, his son said. Chris Kammer, also a dentist, said his father never really retired and still saw patients a few times a week. He saw his last patient within the last few months.
Jack Kammer fell in March while climbing a ladder to clear snow off the roof of his Madison home.