Thursday, December 13, 2012

Injuries put a stop to holiday displays on S. Elm Street

As published in the Record Journal Thursday December 13, 2012

By Eric Heredia
(203) 317-2243
Twitter: @EHerediaRJ
Record-Journal staff

Susan Huizenga wanted to use a photo of one of the Mercier family’s famous holiday decorations in a photo package for a segment on the town’s Public Access television channel.

When Linda Mercier told her she couldn’t use it, Huizenga was surprised, because she had always been eager to help.

“That’s when she told me that John had fallen,” said Huizenga, volunteer executive director of the Wallingford Public Access Association.

This will be the first time in more than 20 years that the Merciers’ house at 459 S. Elm St. will not be decorated for Christmas. Over the years, the Merciers have received items to add to their Christmas and Halloween displays from all over the country.

On Nov. 4, Linda Mercier and her husband, John, came home from church. They knew it was supposed to rain so they wanted to take down the big spider web with a human corpse entangled in it. John Mercier went up on a ladder to cut down the web, came down and gave it to Linda.

“I thought he was going to put the ladder back in the garage, then I heard him moving the ladder,” she said, assuming he had seen something else on the roof he wanted to take down.

Then she heard the ladder scraping. The bottom slid out on the pavement toward the road and the ladder came crashing down with John on it. He was unconscious for 10 minutes, bleeding from the eyes, nose and mouth, she said.

Linda screamed for help, but no one heard her, so she went into the house to call 911.

She said John lost two liters of blood because he was on Coumadin, a medication used to prevent heart attacks, strokes and blood clots.

John Mercier, who is 60, lost nearly all sight in his one good eye and fractured his eyebrow, eye sockets, nose and wrist. He broke a rib and bruised and tore muscles in his chest, near his heart. He had suffered a heart attack 10 years ago and had a pacemaker and defibrillator installed.

“He fell right on it but it didn’t pull the wires out,” Linda said.

He bruised his brain and the doctor said it would take six months to a year for the blood to fully reabsorb. Now he has to relearn how to walk, Linda said. He is expected to be in rehabilitation at the Village Green nursing home until February. Linda said he is talking and remembers people in his life, but doesn’t remember the fall.

Huizenga asked Linda if she could try to lift John’s spirits, and she’s gotten some help. An avid viewer knitted afghans for the Merciers. Children in WPAA-TV’s Pen Pals program made a collage depicting the Merciers’ house filled with Christmas decorations, and cars driving past.

“When I showed it to Linda, her eyes opened up with wonder,” Huizenga said. “‘That’s our house,’ she said.”

Huizenga will also have the Wallingford Chorus sing for the Merciers on a video that will air on WPAA from next Wednesday through the holiday season from 5 to 6:15 p.m. The video was being edited on Wednesday using footage from a documentary about the Merciers’ home. Huizenga plans to drop off a copy to Linda this weekend.

The documentary, by Peter Conforti and Spencer Burnham, covered the last time the Merciers decorated, for this past Halloween.

“As long as the Lord lets us, I’ll keep doing it,” John Mercier said in the documentary.

Linda said the video is a wonderful idea and that she appreciated people being so supportive. It has gone a long way toward helping John recover. She said they may be able to decorate her enclosed porch in the back of the house next year, but the bigger, more elaborate decorations would be too much work.

WPAA-TV is calling on the community to send cards to the Merciers. They can be sent to either WPAA-TV at 28 S. Orchard St. or directly to the Mercier family at 459 S. Elm St., Wallingford, CT 06492.

Photo by Christopher Zajac courtesy of the Record-Journal
A sign in front of John and Linda Mercier’s house in Wallingford tells passersby why there won’t be any holiday displays this year. 


The Mercier house and yard decked out for Christmas on Dec. 9, 2009.

File photo courtesy of the Record-Journal

File photo courtesy of the Record-Journal

Linda and John Mercier decorate their home for Christmas last year. A bad fall while taking down Halloween decorations this year has put John out of commission.


  1. It would be really beautiful if all the people who have enjoyed those decorations through the years got together and decorated the space FOR John (with his wife's permission). Or perhaps ask the rehabilitation center if they could really decorate the center's property like it has never been decorated before? I know time is short before the holiday and everyone is very busy but any gesture at all from the heart would surely be appreciated.

    I recently suffered a head injury in my own home. It is nowhere near as severe as John's injury was but it changed some things in my life that were very important to me. A charity for which I volunteered said I could no longer volunteer for them because my head trauma made me "unstable" and I "slurred my words." After an injury is when you most need people to reach out to with loving arms. Please do not turn your back on this wonderful man and his wife.

  2. Hi Sunshine - a few of have come forward and offered including a couple of organized groups in town.

    The family was very grateful for all the offering of assistance but declined - they just want to focus and concentrate on Mr. Mercier getting better.

    While we are all disappointed we can appreciate and understand their desire.

    While it's not the same, I went out last night with the kids (we drive around town a few times during the season) and started scoping out other holiday displays in town with the intent of putting together a map or route of Wallingford Holiday displays to “not miss”.

    I am hoping to have that done this weekend. I’ve never formally done this before (an actual map and route that I posted) but I know it’ll be a little darker than normal on the corner of South Elm and Pond Hill.