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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.