Nick L. Girimonte: 1920 – 2017

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As a young boy growing up in Dunsmuir during the Great Depression, Nicola “Nick” Girimonte helped put food on the family table by selling fruit to Southern Pacific railroad passengers. That initiative, work ethic and an early understanding of customer service emerged as hallmarks of Nick’s long and productive life.

Nick, who partnered with his brother Joe to operate Girimonte’s Men’s Store as one of Redding’s first Market Street merchants, died of natural causes on Dec. 12, 2017. He was 97.

A native of Weed, Calif., Nick was born Oct. 11, 1920—mere months after his parents, Luigi and Carolina, emigrated from the village of Casino (now Castelsilano) in Calabria, Italy. Although logistics prevented him from claiming Italy as his home country, Nick cherished his Italian heritage and reveled in its customs and cuisine.

That Italian bond strengthened soon after Nick’s sister, Mary, introduced him to Claudia Bruzzone, whose family had emigrated from Genoa, Italy. The young Mechanics Bank employee from San Pablo was smitten, and so was the young man from Dunsmuir. Nick married his “forever sweetie” two weeks later. Their daughter, Carolina, arrived 10 months later. Nick and Claudia’s marriage lasted more than 75 years, until Nick’s passing.

Nick’s business acumen began developing while he was still a boy, working alongside his father, a tailor by trade, at the clothing store Luigi opened in 1924 on Sacramento Street, across from the Dunsmuir train station. The family lived above the store and as a toddler, he absorbed the essence of the business. The young Nick started working as soon as he could move boxes, stock shelves and clean.

A lifelong love of fishing on the upper Sacramento River also was kindled during Nick’s youth, first to contribute to the dinner table and later as a chance to spend time in his beloved outdoors. He became an expert fly fisherman who delighted in sharing his passion with others.

In 1940, after a year at Heald’s Business College in San Francisco, Nick became manager of the Dunsmuir store. Nick was inducted into the Army in January 1943 and served with the 18th Reinforcement Depot in the 190th Reinforcement Company. He served in central Europe for nearly two years before he was honorably discharged Dec. 10, 1945. He was awarded the European African Middle-Eastern Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

In 1947, Nick and Joe purchased their father’s interest in the store and relocated it to Dunsmuir Avenue, the city’s main street. In 1954, they purchased Burke’s Menswear at 1543 Market St. in downtown Redding and opened Girimonte’s. Nick managed the new location while his brother managed the Dunsmuir store. The brothers decided to consolidate their efforts in Redding in 1957.

In 1964 the brothers created a new store at 1522 Market St., next door to Dobrowsky’s Jewelers, and stayed in business until they sold the store in 1984.

Throughout his life, Nick balanced a tough, direct, no-nonsense style, borne of his Southern Italian roots, with a tender-hearted, wise and sweet outlook. Helping others was evident throughout his tenure as a haberdasher. Girimonte’s provided jobs to more than 125 people during its 30 years in Redding and helped countless young people establish credit. Girimonte’s was synonymous with fine clothing and exceptional customer service—so much so that former customers to this day lament the lack of service they experience with today’s retailers.

Nick was active in civic affairs, community service and fraternal organizations. He served on the Shasta County Grand Jury and was the last living charter member of the Knights of Columbus Redding Council. He was a member of Rotary Club of Redding (he was awarded honorary membership in 2013), the Veterans of Foreign Wars and he enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow “Koffee Klatch” members. He was a life member of Redding Elks Lodge and was active in Sons in Retirement (SIRS). In 2000, Nick and his brother were named Italians of the Year at the annual Festa Italiana at the Shasta District Fairgrounds in Anderson.

Nick and Claudia demonstrated their love for the community through their various philanthropic efforts. They were inducted into Mercy Foundation North’s McAuley Society and the foundation’s Legacy Society in 1998.

Retirement allowed Nick time to pursue his love of reading, RV travels with Claudia, trips to Europe, fishing and time in nature. To Nick, the outdoors was his cathedral. Nick developed an interest in cooking and baking, often finding just the right ingredient to improve a recipe or a dish he learned about from a televised cooking show. His kale soup and mustazzoli (a sweet honey loaf) were two well-received favorites.

Nick possessed a quiet, wise presence and a giving spirit that was evident throughout his life, whether he was sharing life lessons with a grand-niece while baking bread or taking pride in his wife’s 55 years of volunteering at Mercy Medical Center.

Despite his accomplishments, Nick remained humble and lived life with integrity and enjoyment. A gentleman to the end, he was always more interested in hearing your story than telling his. His favorite expression: “everything will be OK.”

Nick was preceded in death by his parents, Carolina and Luigi; sister, Mary and brother-in-law, Pete Patella; niece, Linda Patella; sister-in-law, Dolores Girimonte; and first cousin, Joe Curto. He is survived by his loving wife, Claudia; daughter, Carolina, whom he adored and admired; his beloved brother, Joe, and sister-in-law Diane; niece and godchild, Ann Przybyla (Bill); nieces Katie Marinko (John) and Debbie Hines (Mark); and nephews Louis Girimonte and David Patella, M.D.; and many much-loved grand-nieces and grand-nephews and their children.

Private inurnment services with military honors will be held at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery in Igo. A public celebration of life will be held in the spring with notification to follow. Donations in Nick’s memory may be made to Mercy Foundation North, the Salvation Army or a charity of your choice.

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12 Responses

  1. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Wow. What a life he had!

  2. Avatar Marilyn says:

    Thank you so much for writing this tribute to a wonderful man. He was much loved by so many.

  3. Avatar Joanne says:

    Marilyn has said it all

  4. Think of the century this wonderful man knew: Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Middle East, Twin Towers, including the coming and going of great change in the area where he lived; yet he was forever a gentleman, an optimist with a sense of humor born of faith and compassion. He walked the South Sacramento River Trail with a cane because he loved the River and the history there so much. They simply are not made this way any longer.

  5. Avatar Sue K says:

    A wonderful tribute – so informative. Thank you very much.

  6. Avatar Mark Ostrom says:

    Nick and Joe were family friends, GOOD people and very old fashioned in their clothing stores, giving truly great service. My dad would buy his 501 Levi’s NO WHERE ELSE! Rest in Peace Nick… “Ciao”

  7. Avatar Shirley Mazzei says:

    Always a friendly smile and hello every
    Time we saw Nick and Joe.
    I was seventeen when I purchased John’s
    First Pendelton shirt at Giramontes, sixty five years ago..wonderful thoughts!

  8. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    Thank you for this beautifully written tribute to a fine man. He and his family have made this world a better place.

  9. Avatar Elaine Bellamy says:

    Will miss his wave while picking up my mail here in the Knolls. Wonderful man. Prayers to the family.

  10. Avatar Victoria Girimonte, daughter of Nick and Sally Girimonte of San Francisco. says:

    My grandfather, Leonardo Girimonte, emigrated to California, prior to Nick and Joe’s parents, but all related, my grandfather, Leo and his wife, Rosina also settled in Northern CA, my father also a Nicola Joseph Girimonte was born in Weed, where Leo was sheriff. Leo and Rosina remained in Weed with their 7 children, they were all schooled in Weed, and then moved to San Francisco. I used to remember going to weddings in Redding and visiting Nick and Joe of Redding. I adored Nick and Joe Girimonte of Redding. Nick and Joe Girimonte of San Francisco also were wonderful men, well beloved. Victoria Girimonte.

  11. Avatar Tana Girimonte Henderson says:

    “Nicky Redding” was an easy man to love. He embodied love, kindness, gentleness, goodness and gave it to his family and all he came in contact with. I remember him with much affection.
    I am the daughter of “Nicky San Francisco” and remember delightful times when all the Nick and Joe Girimonte’s and their families gathered. God has blessed us with a loving family for which I am very grateful. Much love to Claudia and Carolina, Tana Girimonte Henderson

  12. Avatar Don Beaudoin says:

    A Lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus, Nick was the best of the best.