ASHLAND -- Most of Rafael Serrano's artwork in downtown Ashland has been done admittedly as acts of vandalism. It's the Ashland man's attempt to give Main Street "unique character," but his latest work-in-progress -- a set of butterfly wings with a semicolon body -- has greater meaning.
Positioned next to a set of angel wings that Serrano painted last summer at 100 W. Main St, the new butterfly wings outside of the Fig and Oak gift shop are a tribute to his 23-year-old daughter, who died Wednesday, Nov. 27.
The Kent State University student and 2014 graduate of Ashland High School, Kasandra (Kasey) V. Serrano was living in North Canton when she committed suicide, losing her life to the same struggles her mother had also lost to during Kasey's senior year at AHS.
"Like a lot of teenagers, she struggled with self harm and depression in high school. It got worse her senior year when she lost her mother to suicide," Serrano said. Though divorced at that time, he still calls Angela Serrano his wife, as "she's the only one I've ever had," he explained.
Kasey enjoyed video games, playing guitar and anything related to music and the theatre. She had participated in volleyball, basketball, cross country and track and field.
At Kent State, she studied criminal sociology and was expected to graduate in Spring 2020.
Nothing has been the same since his wife passed, and now, there's no doubt for Serrano, nothing will be the same without his daughter.
He says, he's okay, that he needs to "hold things together" for his family. According to Kasey's obituary, she's survived by her father, two brothers, a boyfriend, her paternal grandmother, her maternal grandparents, several aunts and uncles and many cousins.
He anticipates it'll hit him hardest in the coming weeks. But now, his feelings are simple: He doesn't want this for anyone else.
Once complete, the butterfly wings painted at 100 W. Main Street will feature a reaffirming message overtop and the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline "somewhere it can be seen when people are taking a picture." He even asked for permission this time.
"You never know who will walk by and see it. They might need it. Even people who look happy taking a picture with it," Serrano said. "I wanted to do this... so other families don't have to go through what we're going through."
He intends to complete the wings Sunday afternoon and has invited the public to join him in finishing the mural.
He plans to fill in the outline he's made after Kasey's celebration of life, which is to be held from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Sunday, December 15 in Legacy Room of the Denbow-Gasche Funeral Home.
"I would like all of you to join me in coloring this butterfly outside Fig and Oak on Main Street," Serrano said on Facebook. "I will have gloves, and brushes and it would mean a great deal to me to have all of you help me with this."