Berkshire County is mourning the death of Gailanne Cariddi, a state representative from North Adams who died over the weekend at age 63.
Gailanne Cariddi, the 1st Berkshire District state representative from North Adams, died Saturday morning at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The Democrat was first elected in 2010.
Her colleagues in the Berkshires delegation – Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Paul Mark and Smitty Pignatelli – are taking it hard.
“We are really sad, and we are really shocked by this,” Farley-Bouvier says.
“Gail was a very hardworking women. She was very quiet, very gentle and she always conducted herself with just a special kind of dignity,” Mark says.
“We knew something was imminent, but we thought we had a few more days anyways,” Pignatelli says.
Pignatelli, of the 4th Berkshire District, says Cariddi had breast cancer.
“Very aggressive form of breast cancer, you know that her closest friends we knew about. But just two weeks ago on Thursday, Paul Mark and I… we took her out to lunch in Boston. We had a wonderful time, and we walked from the State House to the restaurant. We laughed, we joked, we talked politics, we talked family, and we walked back, and… just shocked,” Pignatelli says. “It’s a sad day all around on many levels, but from a very personal level because her and I had been friends for over 35 years, long before politics and … a lot of people lost a colleague, I lost a personal friend.”
Before getting into politics, Cariddi – North Adams born and raised – worked for more than 30 years as a financial manager for her family’s business, Cariddi Sales Company.
She jumped into politics — serving 21 years on the North Adams City Council, including a stint as president.
Former North Adams Mayor John Barrett says Cariddi was instrumental in moving forward the bike and pedestrian paths in the northern Berkshires. She also served on the Berkshire Bike Path Council.
“I think that anytime I had an issue to deal with – a thorny one that needed to be looked at very meticulously – she was often the person that I’d turn to on the city council,” Barrett says.
Elected to the House in 2010, she was the first woman to hold the 1st Berkshire seat, and the second woman from Berkshire County in the state Legislature. The first was former Governor Jane Swift, and third Tricia Farley-Bouvier, of the 3rd Berkshire District.
“And so we doubled the representation in Berkshire County for women,” Farley-Bouvier says.
Farley-Bouvier says Cariddi constantly stood up for her district.
“She made it very clear that if you were coming to her office it means you were going to talk about the 1st Berkshire District and that’s what she was about and why she was in the State House – was to advocate for her people,” Farley-Bouvier says.
Paul Mark represents the 2nd Berkshire District…
“She was never there for spotlight,” Mark says. “She was never there for recognition or credit.”
Cariddi was chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.
But in her district, former State Senator Ben Downing says, it was her leadership that got projects like MASS MoCA’s Building 6 off the ground.
“You know, I am mindful that of the fact that when I was at MASS MoCA for the opening just few weeks back, that was a partnership between us for the second round of funding,” Downing says, “Without Gail winning support from leadership – from Chairman Kocut and others – that funding would never have been made possible.”
Plans for a special election to fill the seat have not be announced. State Senator Adam Hinds hopes the successor has Cariddi’s drive.
“You know, she certainly knew that the focus on economic development and the impact of jobs, and she knew firsthand the transition through her family of mills and the transition of the economy locally,” Hinds says. “And so in many ways she was coming into her own with the chairmanship or chairship in the legislature, in the House and so she’s really … we are going to miss that power she was bringing into the legislature.”
North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright says Cariddi was an advocate for everyone in the northern Berkshires.
“Gail knew everyone, but more importantly everybody knew Gail,” Alcombright says.
Cariddi was 63. Services are set for Thursday in North Adams.