Cottage Grove, Obituaries & Tributes

Remembering Erica Caridio: A community staple

Erica Caridio, at home in Ireland. Photo provided

Saturday afternoon I spent a bittersweet time around the iconic round table at the Axe & Fiddle. Just on the other side of the glass, blurred by the large Axe neon sign, the bustle of Main Street passed by.
Seated there, I had the special privilege of hearing of the extraordinary life of Erica Caridio from the three people dearest to her, spouse Bart Caridio, daughter Brianna Caridio, and her mother, Janice D’Emido.
Erica lost her valiant fight against a very aggressive cancer, which came with no warning or mercy. On May 1, surrounded by her loving family, she peacefully slipped away from us. The lives that she touched and the work that she did ensures her memory will be long cherished beyond this community.
As her loved ones took turns sharing memories, adding to what another had said, and occasionally trying to piece together timelines and dates, a picture emerged of someone truly remarkable.
Her daughter called her a Renaissance woman – someone who could do anything, both skillfully and in a highly organized way. Erica was an artist, a businesswoman, an indexer, a gardner and a master cook and baker.
She had a brilliant mind, excelled in math and science; she graduated with honors from South Eugene High School and was accepted into engineering school.
Once there, she found that engineering did not appeal to her as much as helping her professors with their presentations and visuals for lectures and publications. Her artistic side pulled her into graphic design and a degree in graphic communication – the perfect blend for someone who is both artistic and scientific.
Art was her lifeblood. Erica made batik clothing, which she sold at the Eugene Saturday and Holiday markets. Brianna remembers learning to walk, holding on to the support pole of her mom’s booth at the market.
After teaming up with Bart, they lived in the Whiteaker neighborhood. When he and his partners opened Sam Bond’s Garage, she assisted with graphics and computer wizardry.
Her graphic skills are legendary. Not only did she design the logos, posters, menus and even tap handles for the various Caridio business ventures, but for many others as well. The Blackberry Pie Society sports an Erica Caridio original design. Her family said she was so giving of her talents that they never realized how many people she helped in this way.
Early in our conversation cats came up. Erica was a cat person. She carried on a lifelong mission to rescue, spay and neuter any feral cat she could, as well as arrange for its adoption.
One particularly beloved feline, Bella, was found in a freshly mowed field only two days old with its eyes still closed. Erica tenderly raised her, by hand, carrying the tiny kitten everywhere with her.
Erica was indeed a rare jewel. While she was an intense perfectionist with impossibly high standards for herself, she never put those onto others, her family said. She always found the good in someone and brought out the best in people.
Brianna said that while she never sought the spotlight or looked for attention, she did create a stir out there. When she did go out socially, she elated everyone she interacted with by her special talent to make them feel special.
Janice brought up traveling. They were often co-conspirators on a trip, instigated by cheap tickets. Istanbul, Florence (Italy, not the coast), China, Cuba, France, and Mexico were some of the destinations that came up.
After college, she lived in London, was an au pair in Spain and traveled by Eurail throughout Europe. She traveled to dive into local culture, to get to know the people and way of life.
Recently, she got to spend her birthday in Ireland with her family. Ireland resonated with her, appropriately having been born on St. Patrick’s Day.
Erica’s desire to live in the country brought them to Cottage Grove in 1998. For a while, it was back and forth to the big city as Sam Bond’s needed attention, but they eventually settled on a piece of land where she could garden to her heart’s content.
Erica soon found another home and second family at Log House Plants. She started out pulling plants for this local nursery, but was soon asked to do the graphics for the speciality plant tags, catalogs and to tame the computers. Alice, Gail, and Birdy became the aunts she never had.
Bart related that, even after she left Log House to concentrate on their expanding businesses, she would get a call for help. He told me how she gladly assisted and, while sometimes a physical fix was required, the Log House folks were convinced that she had a psychic power and just by calling her the computers uncannily began to behave.
When Bart and business partner Brad van Appel founded the Axe & Fiddle in Cottage Grove in 2006, Erica again assisted with graphics and computer help.
Plank Town Brewing Company in Springfield was the first venue that was just for them. This business, in particular, demonstrates some of her unique skills. Caridio’s decision to expand by opening the brewery in Springfield caused a rare rift in their cooperative partnership.
”She thought we had too much already going on and was upset,” Bart said. ”Erica didn’t come into Plank Town for the first six months we were working on it.”
But once she did, she met some of the team and slowly warmed up to it. Eventually, she took over and became the manager.
Erica was a private, quiet type, preferring to be in the office, making sure the books balanced, payroll was ready, and every detail perfect.
”She was a professional preparer of indexes for nonfiction books,” Brianna said. ”I think it really appealed to her solitary and perfectionist nature.”
With so many irons in the fire, she could pursue indexing at the times that suited her best. She could garden while it was cool, index for a while, then head to Plank Town.
Bart and Erica were together for 27 years, though they never married.
”We were committed to one another and didn’t see any reason for a ceremony,” Bart said. ”I would have married her if she had wanted to do that, but she didn’t want all of the attention that is directed to the bride during a wedding.”
When their daughter, Brianna, was born, they made up her last name, Caridio, by taking the first and last of their family names (Carroll and D’Emidio) to create a true merger of themselves. Later on they both legally changed their own names to Caridio, thus cementing the family.
It always hurts to lose someone you love. I hope that remembering a life well-and fully-lived will help in the process of grieving and accepting.
For myself, I would like to offer my deepest appreciation and love to the Caridio and D’Emidio families.
I also feel inspired to hold my head up higher and try harder in all that I do to honor the kind of person Erica Caridio was, the kind of work she did to make everyone around her happier and more whole individuals.
Goddess speed Erica!

Dana Merryday is a Chronicle columnist for Through the Grove-vine. He can be reached at 541-942-7037 or by email at [email protected].



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