By CBSLA Staff

TUSTIN (CBSLA) — A Tustin family is mourning the loss of a beloved 72-year-old, Domenico Masdea, who was known for transforming his garage into an elaborate miniature mountain village at Christmas.

Neighbors would line up for hours to see the spectacle, and now his loved ones are vowing to carry on the legacy.

“We fought for 16 years to keep him alive and COVID took him away,” said Liliana Dawson about her father, who also battled other health issues. “We felt cheated and we did everything we could to protect him.”

The Tustin grandfather known for inviting countless strangers into his home to see his hand-made nativity scene every December for 37 years, survived a long battle with neck cancer only to die from coronavirus last month.

“We’ve been gone 19 years and we finally got to move back home and he’s gone. But I look at the time we did have together from June to February. We were together every day,” Dawson said. “At one point he did pull me aside and he had a conversation with me and he let me know he didn’t know how much longer he’d be here.”

Domenico Masdea died four months later.

Now, Dawson’s brother, husband and grandchildren will carry on his tradition.

“It’s probably not going to be anything like what my father does because it was his passion but I’m sure they’ll honor him in a special way to recreate it,” Dawson said. “COVID has really made us slow down and take each moment because you don’t know what’s going to happen each moment because you just don’t know, y0u don’t know what going to happen tomorrow.”