What is the most important in life?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Loving, Leaving Las Vegas - Las Vegas Valley Couple


The first time Pete and Marty Walsh drove through Nevada, they were not impressed.

“We had a Rand McNally road atlas we were using to navigate around the country,” Marty said. “We made little notes about the places on it. On the Nevada page, there was just one big word, ‘UGH!’ across the whole page.”

The pair had driven across the state on U.S. Highway 50, dubbed “the loneliest road in America” in a Life magazine article.

“At the time, I just saw it as barren and empty,” Pete said. “I grew up in Ireland, and all the mountains there are green and covered with life. After being here a few years, I saw those mountains with different eyes. I’d say now that ‘naked and raw’ is a better way of saying it. You can see billions of years of history on those mountains, and then you’ve got Vegas, where everything is new below them.”

Before moving to Las Vegas in 1999, the Walshes hadn’t lived anywhere for more than a few years. They longed to see places they hadn’t been. When they arrived here, they ended up setting down the deepest roots they had ever had, buying a home, setting up the Trifecta Gallery downtown and helping transform the 18b Arts District.

Now, they’re pulling up stakes again and heading back to the country farmland where Pete’s family has lived for generations.

“We’ve said every year, ‘Is this the year we go back?’ and it never was,” Pete said. “This year, we thought, if we don’t do it now, we might never, so we’re going there, and we’re building our little dream house.”

The couple met on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where Marty had moved to start a deli with a friend while Pete way plying his skills as a carpenter.

“We met at a restaurant and went on a date the next night,” Marty said. “I was very impressed that he was such a gentleman.”

Both thought of it as a summer romance, but when Pete was called back home to Ireland because of an illness in the family, he couldn’t stop thinking about Marty.

“They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I guess that’s the case,” Pete said. “Maybe we wouldn’t have stayed together if I hadn’t gone home, but when I came back, we got pretty serious.”

The couple married on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts and lived on Martha’s Vineyard for eight years, with side trips to visit other places, including the long road trip that took them through Nevada the first time.

“We did a trip around the states in a Volkswagen bus,” Pete said. “We went 22,000 miles and went through 46 states in a hippie van.”

Their trips often led to places they didn’t expect. After spending the holidays with Marty’s parents in Louisville, Ky., they headed south to spend the winter somewhere warm.

“We were thinking St. Thomas or the Virgin Islands — someplace like that,” Pete said. “We stopped at a youth hostel in Georgia and ended up running the place.”

The hostel was managed by the owner’s son, who was called to the Peace Corps about the time the Walshes showed up. They were hired to manage the place and lived that winter in a treehouse on 90 acres of Georgia forest.

Pete and Marty came to Las Vegas to get in on the building boom, but Marty’s art and gallery soon became the center of the couple’s lives. Pete helped Marty renovate the gallery, and they ran it together, with Marty as the public face, choosing art, nurturing artists and bringing in notable speakers, while Pete quietly held things together in the background.

The Walshes have at least a few more months to work things out as they trim their belongings, say their farewells and prepare to head back across the ocean. They’ll keep in touch with their friends in Las Vegas and keep an eye on the local art scene.

Marty believes the local art scene is poised to move on to its next evolution. She feels that Pete’s description of the Nevada landscape is an apt one of what they’re leaving behind.

“Naked and raw — that’s a good way of putting it,” she said. “I think that’s kind of a metaphor for the whole state and the arts district. It’s open and exposed and ready to grow.”

— F. Andrew Taylor, East Valley View staff writer

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