WEIRTON - Family and friends are mourning the loss of local businessman and philanthropist Louis Serra who died Friday, remembering his contributions to the community and the legacy to his family.
Serra, 84, was described by many as a "kind and generous man who liked his privacy" as well as a visionary who brought something to the community ahead of its time.
Gus Monezis of Gus's Goodies said he remembers when Serra first built The Weirton Convalescent Center, a 100-bed facility which opened in 1970. He said he was about 15 when he and his father were invited to take a tour of the facility.
"I was always impressed with him," said Monezis. "He was proud of what he had accomplished and it showed as he continued to expand the facility over the years. He was a good man, a citizen of Weirton and always there for those who needed him."
Throughout the years, Serra contributed financial support to a number of charities including the Weirton United Way. Executive Director Kristin Bowman Cross said Serra was someone who was always concerned with helping the underpriviledged and those in need. She said he showed those feelings each year in his involvement with the United Way.
"He will surely be missed," she said.
As a businessman for more than 40 years, Serra did what he could to support other local businesses and the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce, particularly the youth programs, according to Chamber President Brenda Mull.
Mull said he was a true businessman who worked to expand his business while giving back to the community.
"I would see him on Sunday mornings as we walked in to early Mass and we'd walk in together," she said. "I'd always ask him how he was doing. He set a precedent in this community and done so much. He has earned the right to be remembered this way and will be missed."
Nearly 57 years ago, Serra was a news director for WEIR Radio. John Sorrenti, a long-time friend and sports broadcaster for the radio station, said their team of broadcasters consisted of Serra, Mayor Dave Frew and himself.
"Lou and I had a great relationship. He was instrumental in every political campaign I had," he said. "He loved politics and I took advantage of that."
The business Serra built from the ground up had an impact on so many lives, according to Harold "Bubba" Miller. He said as he got to know Serra not only as a former councilman but while his mother was an employee for some time and then a patient in the Alzheimer's Unit.
Miller said his mother loved working for Serra and when she was a patient, he and the staff were unbelievable. He said Serra was a kind and generous man who was always the first to step out to support the annual Holiday Lighting Contest sponsored by the Seeing Beyond Foundation.
"He was always interested in the betterment of the city and what would be the most beneficial for continued development," said Miller. "I know the Serra family must be hurting with the loss of Joe and now Lou. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their family."
Romie Castelli said Serra was a part of the Saturday morning breakfast group for the last 10 years. He said Serra was from the old school like men such as his father and Mike Starvaggi who was a kind and generous man who will be missed by the community.
Members of the city administration also offered their condolences and a few words about the man they knew.
"Lou was a visionary and we were fortunate to have him here in Weirton," said Ward 2 Councilman Chuck Wright. "He provided the community with a first-rate center who continued to expand what he built. There is no question that he was a great man."
"Lou Serra was a kind and caring individual who dedicated his life to providing the elderly with dignified and quality care along with serving the community as a whole," added Ward 6 Councilman David Dalrymple.
Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh said he had been a friend of the family for many years and had a long businessness relationship as well. He said Serra graduated with his dad and he gave the impression that he was a thick-skinned, hardcore man but deep down he was truly a man who was concerned about the city and the people in it.
"We used to have long talks about what we thought was best for the city and I always got a laugh out of him when I told him 'Lou, when I grow up I want to be just like you,'" Marsh said. "He loved to debate and I am going to miss arguing with him."
Mayor George Kondik said Serra was instrumental in making day-to-day decisions concerning the construction and expansion of his business with city officials. He said he always respected Serra's knowledge and business sense and he was always a gentleman.
"His concern for his family and this community was unparalleled," he said.
Funeral Liturgy with Mass will be celebrated 11 a.m. today at St. Joseph the Worker Roman Catholic Church with the Rev. Manuel Gelido and the Rev. Larry Dorsch concelebrating. Entombment will be in St. Paul Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Serra Foundation, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV 26062.
(Dickson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)