Born: October 16, 1949
Place of Birth: Alliance, Nebraska
Death: May 1, 2010
Place of Death: Houston, Texas
Memorial donations can be made to:
St. Agnes Academy Foundation, 1104 Cheyenne Avenue, Alliance, NE 69301
October 16, 1949 - May 1, 2010
MARY HELEN BRITTAN SERNA, 60, died at the Houston Hospice in Houston, Texas on May 1st 2010 following a 9 month battle with cancer. Faith and family defined her approach to life and to death. She was born October 16, 1949 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Alliance, Nebraska, the daughter of Jane and Charles Brittan. She graduated from St Agnes High School in 1968 and Loretta Heights College in Denver Colorado in 1972 with a triple Major in French, Elementary Education, and Special Education. She studied for a year Aix en Provence, France, and she taught for a year in Pueblo, Colorado.
Mary Helen married Mario J Serna of Bogotá, Colombia at Holy Rosary Church in Alliance, NE on July 14, 1973. In a brave act of love, faith, and commitment, she followed Mario to Bogotá, Colombia where he was employed by Exxon in their exploration division. The bridge she forged between Colombia and Alliance, NE changed the lives of many Nebraskans who married the Colombians whose visits she initiated or facilitated. Mary followed Mario everywhere he went starting with Bogotá, followed by Miami Florida, Houston Texas, Caracas Venezuela, back to Houston, then Mexico City Mexico, and ending back in Houston. Everywhere she made a meaningful home for her family. She spoke three languages and enjoyed her travels ranging from a pilgrimage to Medjugorje Yugoslavia to attending a Catholic mass near the Tepuis on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
While keeping her family first, Mary shared her teaching talent and her faith whenever possible. Before the kids were born, she taught elementary school in Bogotá, Colombia; after her children were all attending school she returned to teaching in Houston, TX. She taught the Confraternity of Catholic Doctrine (CCD) to school children while in Florida, Texas, and Venezuela. In Florida she studied for a Masters Degree in Christology, but she followed Mario to Houston before she was able to finish.
They hired a good maid when they lived overseas. In Bogotá she supported and encouraged their maid ‘Rosa’ to attend night school. When Mary and Mario left after five years, Rosa had a degree in nursing. Rosa’s parents were so proud of her. She and Mario helped their maid, Puresa, in Caracas start her own retail business. In Mexico City, they helped their maid, Lourdes, put all her children through school including giving them Computers – a rare opportunity for her family. She volunteered at Orphanages in Venezuela and Mexico.
Mary was always a gracious hostess to all of Mario’s coworkers that came to their home. Over the years Mary volunteered her time as an officer in the “Expatriate” club. She was president of the club in Caracas. She enjoyed listening to her husband play the accordion, helping her sons become Eagle Scouts, her daughter with horseback riding and schoolwork, doing family history research, making scrapbooks, quilting and photo albums. Most of all Mary enjoyed spending time with family and friends. She visited her parents and brothers two or three times a year in Alliance.
Mary’s battle with cancer gave the family a chance to observe the depth of her faith, bravery, and courage. Knowing she had an aggressive incurable disease, she faced dying with dignity: neither rushing towards it nor hiding from its inevitable fate. Mary channeled her suffering as an instrument to grow closer to her family and to grow stronger in her faith. In her final hours she silently presented her pain as a prayer.
Mary was proceeded in death by her father, Charles H. Brittan, and is survived by her husband Mario J Serna, children, and grandchildren. Her oldest son, Maj Mario A Serna Jr, USAF married Laura Evans and currently lives in Laurel, MD. They have Mary’s two granddaughters Ximena and Yvonne. Her second son Francisco C Serna lives in Austin, TX, and her youngest child is Brittany J Serna now lives in Houston, TX. Mary is also survived by her mother Jane L Brittan and all five of her brothers: Stephen Brittan of Alliance, NE; Thomas Brittan and his wife Ligia of Scottsbluff, NE; Dr Jeff Brittan and his wife Connie of North Platte, NE; Charles X Brittan and his wife Carmenza of Alliance, NE; and Dr Andrew Brittan of Nashville, TN. She is survived by 14 nieces and nephews: Jennifer, Arlo, Janie, Theo Luke, Owen, Beatrice, Erin, Sara, Dominic, Ann, Conor, Colin, and Mollie.
Mary’s body will be returning home to Alliance to be buried in her ancestral grave site. A wake and rosary will be held on Friday, May 7, 2010 at 7 pm at Holy Rosary Catholic church, and her funeral mass will be at 10 am on Saturday May 8, 2010. The burial will be in Calvary Cemetery after the mass.
Saturday May 8, 2010, 10:00 a.m.
Holy Rosary Catholic Church
Friday May 7, 2010, 7:00 p.m.
Holy Rosary Catholic Church.