This remembrance of Oats Part Art Center Director Valerie Serpa was compiled by friends and family members and originally published in The Fallon Post on Dec. 13. The Post generously lent us permission to reprint it. —KV
Valerie Jean Serpa, beloved Aunt, Great Aunt, Sister, Stepmother, Mother-in-law, and dear friend to so many, died tragically in a small plane crash in Medford, Oregon on Sunday, December 5, 2021. 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.
Valerie, 67, was born and raised in bucolic Fallon, Nevada. 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. She was adept at and enjoyed running the harrowbed in particular.
Following high school graduation, she was able to purchase 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. She continued helping with the family work as 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.
Valerie’s passion for the arts led to her joining the Churchill Arts Council at its inception in 1986. Shortly after, she met and married the gentleman who was to become the love of her life, Kirk Thomas Robertson. Valerie and Kirk shared their vision for an arts community and helped to renovate Oats Park School into the Oats Park Arts Center complete with a performing arts theater, art and exhibit galleries, and a museum store, all available to their community and beyond. Valerie continued on with their shared passion of this work following Kirk’s death in 2017. She was instrumental in procuring funding for not only the renovations, but for the ongoing performances and exhibits. She was an arts leader, an author, and a great collaborator. 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, both located in Fallon, Nevada, as we know this would bring her great joy.
One of her greatest pastimes was pouring over of the incredible collection of books she and Kirk had amassed: she recently renovated her library to enhance the collection. Her 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.
Valerie loved to travel, and she and Kirk visited several countries, taking in 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. She and Kirk often traveled to New York to visit friends and to take in performances of potential, always unique, performing artists to bring to Fallon during the performance season, a tradition that Valerie continued following the loss of Kirk. 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. She was the perfect, welcoming and loving hostess. You always left wanting to return.
Valerie was also known for her kind and loving heart. This was often seen through social gatherings yet also through her love of animals. Visiting her home would yield sightings of cats, horses, donkeys, beloved chickens and their luxury chicken coop known as “Poulet Palais Chichas,” and there would definitely be several peacocks high in their tree or telephone pole perches.
Valerie loved her family and friends fiercely. She wanted nothing more than to bring family and friends together and to bring art into their lives. 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 but she herself drank 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. 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 and niece Val MacFarlane and 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.
A gathering of family and friends to celebrate the life of Valerie will be held in early February at the Oats Park Arts Center in Fallon, Nevada – more information soon. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Churchill Arts Council in Fallon, Nevada; PO Box 2204 Fallon, NV 89407.