Norman Bugg, Navy Vet Who Created NM Christmas Light Extravaganza, Dies

Christmas Holiday Lights 1800
Christmas fairy lights isolated on reflecting surface. -- Getty Images

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- When Norman Bugg did something, he strove to make it the best -- including himself -- said his son, Matt Bugg.

Bugg, who was born in Canton, Ohio, on March 17, 1929, had a 28-year career in the United States Navy. He enlisted as a sailor and served in the Korean War and two tours of duty in Vietnam, working his way up the ranks to retire as a lieutenant commander in 1975 -- an uncommon career trajectory.

He operated the Monterey Motel near Old Town for 25 years, taking an old Route 66 motel and remodeling and refurbishing it into a Triple Diamond-rated lodging.

He had the best lawn in the neighborhood, said his son, and not to be outdone by any of his neighbors, he also had the best Christmas display.

It is the Bugg House Christmas display for which most people will remember Bugg, who died early Sunday from heart failure. He was 89.

For 31 years the home's extravagant outdoor Christmas exhibit lit up his street in the Northeast Heights, with more than 300,000 colorful lights illuminating static and animatronic displays of Santa Clause and his elves, Nativity scenes, orcas, Eskimos, cowboys, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, polar bears, penguins, the Peanuts comic strip gang and more.

"We had to put in an entire new residential electrical system for it, and had professionally installed underground wiring and receptacles so there wouldn't be extension cords and wires all over the yard," said Matt Bugg. The family's electrical bill during the holiday months was sometimes as high as $1,000 a month, he said.

Visitors also had the opportunity to donate money to feed the homeless through Noon Day Ministries (now The Rock at Noon Day), sometimes raising more than $10,000 during the season.

"My dad saw that the display made people happy and brought out the spirit of Christmas in everybody who saw it. He loved sharing that."

Many of the area residents, however, were not happy about having to share their streets and sidewalks with the streams of traffic and pedestrians who flocked to see the Bugg House, located in the Inez neighborhood east of Pennsylvania and south of Menaul.

A lawsuit forced the Buggs to dismantle the massive holiday light show in 2002. For a while it moved to the Traditions! shopping mall, halfway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and then to the Menaul School in Albuquerque. In 2014 the Bugg family donated it to the Belen Harvey House Museum, where it is now one of the museum's biggest attractions.

Despite his father's disciplined military bearing and seemingly tough exterior, Matt Bugg said his father was anything but that.

"He was also the most charitable person you'd ever know. I was going through some of his paperwork and was amazed at how much he donated to charity every month. He never talked about it. He just did it."

He is survived by his wife Joyce Bugg of Albuquerque, whom he married in 1954; his brother Billy Bugg of Florida; sons: Matthew Bugg (Joy) of La Quinta, Calif.; Nathan Bugg and Patrick Bugg of Albuquerque; daughter Kimberly Bugg Sanchez of Albuquerque; and seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

 

This article is written by Rick Nathanson from Albuquerque Journal and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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