On March 8, leopards, crocodiles and brown bears will come to the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
The circus comes to town the next week.
Retired ABC newsman Barry Serafin is selling items from the vast estate of his father, master hunter Pete Serafin.
“This isn’t your average estate sale,” he said.
Pete Serafin’s sole surviving child is liquidating many of his father’s effects five years after the senior Serafin’s death at 93. More than 200 exotic animal hides will go up for sale, along with African tribal regalia, German beer steins, antique swords, firearms used in hippo and walrus hunts, and one very old bear trap.
The auction catalog by Grants Pass auction house Liska & Associates includes products from animals now listed on the Endangered Species Act, including the white rhinoceros, and ivory taken before bans were enacted.
Pete’s heirs, with help from Roseburg attorney Jeff Mornarich, received state and federal permits to sell many of these items. Some can only be sold to Oregon residents, and others won’t be allowed to leave the state.
“There are some very strict rules on this,” Mornarich said.
Mornarich literally wrote the book on Pete Serafin. He penned “Itchy Feet: The Life and Hunts of Pete Serafin” after persuading a 90-year-old Serafin to finally set down his many hard-to-believe hunting yarns in print. The two met weekly for interviews to transfer all the content in “Itchy Feet.”
Pete Serafin was a self-made millionaire known for his rugged persona and civic good works. He was born in 1915 in a log house on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. At 10, he moved by rail to Powers, a timber company boom town, with his single-parent father and four siblings.
At 13, he was hunting deer and elk by himself and displaying his business acumen by brewing and selling beer to loggers. At 19, he left a job in the woods to follow his budding wanderlust to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, where he hunted desert bighorn sheep.
He would set down roots in Roseburg, become a real estate broker and develop more than 1,000 acres in Douglas County, including land where the Roseburg Regional Airport, Whistler’s Bend Park and Roseburg City Hall now stand. He served on many boards and commissions, headed the Roseburg Rod & Gun Club and the local Boy Scout district, and was Roseburg’s First Citizen in 1987.
He’s often remembered as mayor during the Roseburg Blast, but this isn’t quite true, according to Mornarich. Serafin was serving on the City Council in August 1959, when a dynamite explosion leveled eight downtown blocks. Serafin didn’t become mayor for another five months. But Roseburg’s sitting mayor allegedly skipped town in the days after the explosion, according to Mornarich’s account. Serafin stepped forward to lead the council’s cleanup efforts. “He helped rebuild downtown,” Mornarich said.
But Pete Serafin is best known for his exploits as a hunter. He won the 1980 Klineburger Senior Hunter of the World Award, hunted in six continents and killed representatives of 176 big game species. The biography of his life reads like an adventure comic.
Wildlife Safari’s executive director, Dan Van Slyke, said he saw Pete Serafin’s collection before his death, and it was unrivaled. “It was absolutely tremendous,” he said.
Serafin died in December 2008, leaving his vast trophy rooms and gun cabinets. The process of clearing out Pete Serafin’s effects has been ongoing since his death. All his full-body mounts were donated to Brigham Young University and other museums. What’s left is a menagerie of animal hides and a hodgepodge of other items that Mornarich suspects will gather interest from fans of Serafin’s.
“I think there’ll be a huge crowd there,” he said.
For sale is an original Abercrombie & Fitch safari hat and the anvil-strapped pack he used for training in the hills above his Glide home. There are a number of uncataloged items, including rare artwork and books. He had many on his hero, Teddy Roosevelt, said Barry Serafin.
“There’s a whole shelf for Teddy,” he said.
All items to be sold will be available for a public viewing at the fairgrounds on March 7, the day before the auction.
The Jordan World Circus will bring live animals the following week.
Many of the cataloged items are exotic animal hides, and hides of any kind don’t typically age well beyond 35 years, said Roseburg taxidermist Dennis Gibson. He doesn’t expect collectors to be lining up for them. “But because it is Pete Serafin, there might be a market.”
Barry Serafin, who grew up in Roseburg and lives in Eugene, said a public auction “seemed like the logical thing to do.”
“It’s been five years since my father died, and we needed a way to dispose of some of these items. And I don’t have a warehouse to keep them in,” he said. “It’s hard in a way because these are all things that belonged to my father.”
He said he’d never gone through the collection until recently. More than hunting, his father loved being where he’d never been.
“He told me before he died he didn’t have any regrets,” he said. “He just lived a remarkable life.”
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.