PHOTO/SERPA FAMILY: Valerie Serpa and her husband, poet Kirk Robertson were instrumental in expanding the arts community in Fallon.

Valerie Jean Serpa left a legacy of arts and culture that will be enjoyed by generations of Churchill County residents, many yet unborn.

Serpa, 67, director of the Oats Park Art Center and the Churchill Arts Council in Fallon, died in a plane crash Dec. 5 in Medford, Oregon. She and her late husband, poet Kirk Thomas Robertson, who died in 2017, were key figures in the rural arts community.

“(Valerie) built the Churchill Arts Council and raised all the money to restore the Art Center, which is now the most beautiful theater, art gallery, and meeting space,” said Rachel Dahl, a friend of the couple who was recently interviewed by KTVL Channel 10 in Medford. “She was just this beautiful, cultured, lovely woman who taught us all how to love and appreciate the arts.”

Dahl said Serpa’s gift was in “embracing all of us and making us feel comfortable with what she was doing. She was magic that way.”

Serpa and pilot Donald Harbert Sefton, 69, a Fallon businessman, died when their small plane went down shortly after takeoff from the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport. Authorities are investigating the crash.

“The tremendous loss of this incredibly intelligent, beautiful woman with the most radiant smile is not easy to share; her loss will be deeply felt for some time,” said Bonnie Carlson, Serpa’s sister-in-law..

A native Nevadan

Serpa was born and raised in Fallon. As a Native Nevadan, she treasured Nevada, in particular its eclectic and lively rural towns. Her early years were spent helping on the family land where hay and cattle were part of the family business.

Following high school graduation, she purchased the Serpa family home, where her father was born. Over the years, she remodeled and renovated her home and surrounding property to honor the original architecture and to encapsulate a most outstanding collection of art, all the while maintaining the essence of a lived-in home, family members said.

She continued her education, taking classes to expand her understanding of culture, history, and art. She earned a degree in Art History and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a graduate degree in Visual Culture from Antioch University.

Memorial planned

A gathering of family and friends to celebrate the life of Valerie is planned for Feb. 13 at the Oats Park Arts Center in Fallon, Nevada and the time will soon be announced. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: the Churchill Arts Council, P O Box 2204 Fallon, NV 89407.

Arts Council founded in 1986

Serpa’s passion for the arts led to her joining the Churchill Arts Council at its inception in 1986. Shortly after, she met and married Robertson, the love of her life.

Valerie Serpa

The couple shared their vision for a local arts community and helped to renovate Oats Park School into the Oats Park Arts Center, That venue now has a performing arts theater, art and exhibit galleries, and a museum store.

After Robertson’s death in 2017, Serpa continued their work in expanding arts appreciation in Fallon. She was instrumental in procuring funding for not only the renovations, but for the ongoing performances and exhibits at Oats Park.

“She was an arts leader, an author, and a great collaborator,” Carlson said. “We are committed to continuing to celebrate her life and incredible accomplishments by supporting her passion and dedicated work in the visual, performing, and literary arts through the Churchill Arts Council and Oats Park Art Center. We know that would have brought her great joy.

One of her greatest pastimes was pouring over of the incredible collection of books she and Robertson had amassed. She recently renovated her library to enhance the collection. Carlson said Serpa’s “intelligence about works of art, articles on works of art, and culture was awe-inspiring. She loved poetry — particularly Kirk’s own published works. Kirk was the poet. Valerie was the poem.”

Traveling the world

Serpa loved to travel, and she and Robertson visited several countries, reveling in the local art, cuisine, and beauty. She loved Italy and the versatility of the word prego, which could be used in a myriad of different ways for different meanings.

Valerie Serpa

The couple often traveled to New York to visit friends and to take in performances with an eye towards bringing some of the artists to Fallon during the performance season, a tradition that Serpa continued following the loss of her husband. She had a trip to New York planned for January 2022.

A world-class cook, Valerie was well-known for her fabulous gatherings of family and friends, where guests shared food and lively discussions. The food she prepared with so much love and served with home-spun yet worldly flair, was unparalleled. Her flower and vegetable gardens sprang forth bounties of beauty. She and Kirk were well-known for their peppers and homemade salsas. Following the consumption of delectable cuisine creations and conversation, the evening would end with heartwarming fires, family members said.

“She was the perfect, welcoming and loving hostess,” Carlson said. “You always left wanting to return.”

Serpa also was known for her kind and loving heart, an empathy that was obvious to both people and animals. Her home was a menagerie of cats, horses, donkeys, and her beloved chickens. Her “luxury chicken coop” was dubbed “Poulet Palais Chichas.” Her property was a roost for several peacocks perched high in their trees or nearby  telephone poles.

A passion for art

Family members said Serpa loved her family and friends fiercely. “She wanted nothing more than to bring family and friends together and to bring art into their lives,” Carlson said. “You knew her well if you spent time sharing a cup of her black, thick as mud, delicious coffee, which she always offered in her marvelous china.”

Serpa often drank the coffee from her favorite patterned bowl so that she could drink in the aroma and warm her hands.

“Her heart and soul were already warm and kept those who knew her warm, too,” Carlson said. “Everyone who loved her prays to sit again at her table, wherever that might be. There will be wine, for sure, and laughter, and joy, and beauty.”

Valerie was preceded in death by her husband Kirk Thomas Robertson, and by her parents Joe Serpa, Jr. and Joanne Serpa. She is survived by her brother, Joseph M. Serpa of Reno; niece Val MacFarlane, her husband, Brandon, and great nephews Jace and Coen of Sparks; sister Tina Doty and her husband Bobby, and nephews Daniel and Andrew of Fallon; sister Julie Serpa and niece Brooke Fitch of Reno; niece Amber Getto and her husband John and niece Mallory, nephew Caleb Casey and great nephew Emerson Casey, nephew Wyatt Getto and his wife Aleisa, and nephew Myles Getto of Fallon; and Kirk’s oldest son Cody WindRiver and his wife Shannon and their children Cienna, Mirabel, and Mobby of Fallon; and Kirk’s youngest son Jesse WindRiver and his wife Lindsey. She is also survived by her mother’s brothers and sisters and their families as well as numerous cousins and extended family.

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1 Comment

  1. A meaningful life well lived. Sorry for her loved ones but maybe there is comfort in all she accomplished.

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