Just behind the along Winchester Boulevard, an apartment complex elicits wows and smiles from residents of all ages as its holiday lights turn on, one section by one and light up Nido Drive.
Signage out front beckon passer bys to stop, park and come inside. “Noela Peace” glows from a sign at the center of it all and cherubs near the complex’s entrance welcome visitors.
Debi Phelps has lived in Campbell for 19 years. She’s lit up the night sky with her holiday lights for the last 14—a living eulogy to a slain family member.
Phelps’ aunt, Christine Noela Orciuch would have celebrated her 63rd birthday yesterday, Dec. 20.
“My aunt was shot and killed in a bank robbery in Lompoc 14 years ago,” Phelps says.
Orciuch had been headed to the Vandenberg Federal Credit Union in Santa Barbara County with her 11-year-old son on Aug. 8, 1997. A man on crutches was trying to open the door to the bank when Orciuch helped him out. Four men inside were robbing the bank as the three unsuspecting locals opened the door.
“She was killed doing an act of kindness,” Phelps says. “Her last words to her son were ‘Dillon I love you’ and ‘Run like hell.’”
It was during Orciuch’s eulogy that an idea stuck with Phelps.
“She loved decorating her home with lights,” she says. “Her best friend Linda said that when she saw other homes that had more lights than hers, she’d run to the store to buy more.”
So setting up a glowing light display every year seemed a natural way for Phelps to honor her aunt year after year.
Now known as “Campbell's Winter Wonderland,” the display has become a staple in the South Bay.
Phelps has a guest book she has visitors sign, a donation jar for the PG&E bill, which she says at this point, she has no idea what it will be like, and a canned food collection bin for Second Harvest Food Bank.
“I just wanted to do something to give back to my community,” she says. “This was the simplest, easiest way to do it.”
The display, however would not be possible without the help of her family, friends and even local businesses, Phelps says.
“I spend about 90 hours setting things up, my brother helps with everything that goes on the roof and my friend Jennifer helps out with the rest,” she says.
in Campbell donates the copies of fliers and in Campbell donates the business cards for the Winter Wonderland.