David Mugar, a Boston philanthropist and the man behind the annual Fourth of July Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, died Tuesday night at the age of 82.

“He was a Bostonian through and through, continually finding ways to give back to the community he loved," his family said in a statement. "He was humble and generous. Quietly doing good for others and always leading with his heart. The many gifts he gave to civic and cultural organizations across the city and the state were most often given in recognition and honor of his parents, our grandparents."

Mugar was the son of Star Market founder Stephen Mugar. He grew up in Watertown and Belmont.

As a boy, he was inspired by the 1952 film "The Greatest Show on Earth" and the circus manager portrayed by Charlton Heston — which led him to dream of bringing together large-scale events. In 1974, he and Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fielder brought that idea to life by re-imagining the Boston Pops Esplanade concerts. The new additions included cannon fire, area church bells and fireworks launched over the Charles River.

Annual attendance grew. And in 2003, Mugar worked with CBS to turn the concert into a nationally broadcast event.

"David had such a huge effect on this city, yet I suspect that many people don't know of him," said Keith Lockhart, current conductor of the Boston Pops. "He was always behind the scenes, but oh so important behind the scenes."

Lockhart said Mugar was involved in the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular for more than four decades, up until the final years of his life, and that he had a hand in "everything from the distribution of the port-a-potties to the actual program and the fireworks afterwards."

Two grinning men have an arm around each other's shoulders, dressed on theme for the Fourth of July — Lockhart on the left is in an American flag collared top with a black bow tie and Mugar, right, has an American flag tie over his suit.
Keith Lockhart, left, and David Mugar, right, pose for a portrait in 1996.
Courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra

"When the dust and the last confetti had rained down on us and we were basking in the glow of another season, one of my favorite moments that would happen year after year is that he would show up outside my dressing room, stick his hand out, shake my hand and say 'Good job, kid' or words to that effect," Lockhart said.

Mugar also played a role in the city's New Year's Eve celebrations. In 1998, he founded the Mugar Family Fireworks event as part of Boston's First Night celebration.

A noted philanthropist, Mugar supported universities, hospitals and cultural organizations in the region. He was a life trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchesta, a member of the board of overseers for the Boston Landmarks Orchestra and a former trustee of GBH.

"Our Dad used the opportunity he was given to think imaginatively, act honestly, and make a difference to those most in need," his family said. "That is a legacy we will work hard to preserve. We love you Dad, and we will miss you.”