Commission candidate passes away

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After a short five-month struggle with renal cancer, Benito “Ben” Serna died at his Bosque Farms home while under hospice care. His wife of 51 years, Dolores, was by his side.

“They were 51 very good years,” Dolores said Tuesday morning. “We were reaching for 52.”

Benito Serna Candidate dies

The two met when Serna came to visit his brother in Bosque Farms, who was married to Dolores’s niece. This was after his service in the United States Army during the Korean War.

His wife called Serna’s death “sudden” in comparison to others.

“So many other people we know have been battling their diseases and they are still hanging in there,” Dolores said. “He would go visit them all. He was a very good friend to everyone.”

Serna’s diagnosis of cancer started in the spring when he complained of stomach pains. Dolores said the doctors gave him medication for the pain, but it didn’t ease up.

What started with blood tests became a whirlwind of tests and MRIs, ending with the removal of his right kidney and gallbladder.

“They told him he was a walking miracle. He would just have to heal up,” Dolores said.

The doctors had to leave one lymph node intact because it was bleeding too much, she said.

“If they hadn’t, they would have lost him on the table,” she said. “They thought they could take care of it with chemo, but once you open up something like that, it spreads like wildfire. He went downhill steadily. I’m glad he’s not in that pain anymore.”

After his retirement, Dolores said her husband took up carving as a hobby — both wood and stone. She said he carved religious icons, such as the Virgin Mary holding a baby, as well as Native American busts, complete with headdresses.

He was also an avid bowler, participating in men’s and mixed leagues, and traveling to tournaments around the state, Dolores said. Serna also went back to his family home in Reserve every hunting season, to hunt in the mountains of his childhood, she said.

“He was active all the time,” she said. “He was always into something. He loved people and people loved him back. I’m sure there are still chapters and books to write on Bennie.”

And despite the pain and his failing health, Dolores said Serna was determined to continue his run for county commissioner.

Serna was the Republican candidate for the District 5 county commission seat. He would have faced incumbent Donald Holliday, a Democrat, in the November general election.

“He wanted so bad to run for county commissioner. We told him we didn’t think he should run, but he would almost sit up out of the bed, he was so adamant that his name not be taken out,” she said.

But as the weeks went by, Dolores said he realized it was time to admit he couldn’t run.

“This was the first time he had run for anything. He was a total greenhorn,” she said. “He was so excited to be county commissioner for this area.”

Peggy Carabajal, county bureau of elections director, said she received Serna’s official letter of withdrawal on Monday. The Valencia County Republican Party has until Tuesday, Sept. 4, to put another candidate on the ballot.

David Vickers, chairman of the Valencia County Republican Party, said he only met Serna briefly after he filed for office.

“He seemed to have a lot of enthusiasm,” Vickers said. “He was retired and ready to do something good in the community.”

Vickers said the party will meet within the next few weeks to decide who it will place on the ballot.

“We have had some inquires,” Vickers said. “It’s good for the community to have a choice, options and it gives the person who ends up in office more legitimacy.”

He said the public should expect an announcement about a new candidate before the Sept. 4 deadline.

Viewing and services for Benito Serna will be held at 10 a.m., Friday, Aug. 24, at French – University Chapel. Interment will take place at Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery, 924 Menaul Blvd. NE, in Albuquerque.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.