CUMBERLAND — Dr. Nicholas A. Giarritta, M.D., 88, passed away on Thanksgiving Day at his home surrounded by his family.
Nick was born on Nov. 16, 1925, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to parents Anthony and Vincincia Giarritta. He then moved to New Jersey, and attended the University of Pennsylvania and Annapolis Naval Academy as an undergraduate. He earned his medical degree in Zurich, Switzerland, interned at St. Claire’s hospital in New York City and performed his pathology residency in New Haven, Conn.
Nick turned down a job offer from Princeton, N.J., following an interview at the old Sacred Heart Hospital on Decatur Street. He often said, “The Sisters were in dire need of a pathologist, the people were so cordial and Cumberland’s mountains and many steeples reminded me of Zurich.” With those reasons, it was easy to choose the position as Chief Pathologist at Sacred Heart in 1962. In addition to his contribution to the Western Maryland Health System, he also taught Pathology at West Virginia University and assisted in starting the program for laboratory technologists at Allegany College of Maryland.
When the new Sacred Heart Hospital was built, he designed a state of the art pathology laboratory, making it one of the best in the State of Maryland. He donated original artwork by local artists for all of the patient rooms, as well as decorating the lobby for Christmas time. In addition, he commissioned a local artist to create two bronze sculptures in which were donated to the hospital.
His love of history, art and architecture resulted in many projects that improved the cultural complexion of the Cumberland area. During the 1960’s he purchased and remodeled a house on Braddock Road, an apartment house on Washington Street and a house on Cecelia Street where Allegany College students could reside. He then bought a tract of land east of Cumberland known as The Aerie, where he renovated one house and built two houses inspired by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, one in which he personally resided in for many years.
After selling these houses, he turned his attention to the downtown Cumberland area and purchased Caroline’s Steak House, remodeled it and turned it into a restaurant known as the Bistro. Later, this building was demolished to make way for Queen City Drive. Following this accomplishment he then purchased and renovated 37 North Centre Street for the Bistro and Gourmet Shop. This establishment was toured and noted as one of the finest gourmet restaurants in the State of Maryland for over twenty years.
Nick coached many young people in the arts of fine dining. He taught them how to become gourmet chefs, wine stewards and career waiters. He brought three nephews from New Jersey to Cumberland in order to attend college. Two became restaurant owners. His first nephew, Bill Miller, is the former owner of the Oxford House and Tivoli Cafe and current owner of Sammy’s Cafe on Center Street with his wife Jaye. His second nephew, Tony Romano is a restaurateur and artist in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. His third nephew, Dr. Charles Romano, is now a physician of Watertown, N.Y.
In addition to his restaurant renovations, he purchased 49-59 North Centre Street and built the Promenade Mall which originally housed Medilab, The Art Department, Connoisseur Interiors, Ferris Investment Company, and an apartment for the Giarritta’s.
In 1981, Nick married Shirley Walker Loomis. His family expanded to include Shirley’s daughter, Sherri Loomis, who moved to Cumberland and is pursuing a master’s degree in Art Therapy and Gina Loomis Hill, who presently works as an Aerospace Engineer in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lives with her husband Jeff and their two children, Lindsay and Johnny.
Following these business decisions, he bought and renovated 115-177 Baltimore Street where he and his wife Shirley relocated Connoisseur Interiors. Nick at the time was a member of the Downtown Cumberland Business Association, and was involved in the planning of the reconstruction of the downtown mall. At the opening ceremony for the dedication of the mall, Nick noticed two buildings on town center at 74 and 76 Baltimore Street and stated, “Those are the ugliest buildings on the mall,” and later bought and renovated them. He also renovated the building that sits upon 121 Baltimore St.
In the 1990’s, Nick became the Facilities Manager for the Cumberland Theatre which originally opened on the Downtown Cumberland Mall in 1988, in the Schwartzenbach Building. When the theatre was forced to relocate, Nick bought what was at that time the Assembly of God Church at 101-103 North Johnson Street. He totally remodeled it to house the auditorium, box office, dressing rooms, sound and lighting booth, green room, set construction area, meeting room and a room to house Bev Walker Arts Gallery. Nick and Shirley then donated the building to the Board of Trustees of the Cumberland Theatre. He then purchased a house to accommodate out of town artists and actors who were to perform at the Cumberland Theatre, located on 105 North Johnson St. He is also responsible for planting all of the trees that line the streets by the city of Cumberland Public Safety Building and Butler Alley, as well as landscaping the area across from the City Hall downtown which remains today.
Nick was involved in many community activities and he was the recipient of several community awards which are as follows: Cumberland Theater; Co-donor of theatre building and actors housing; Board of Trustees; Facilities Manager of Cumberland Theatre; Allegany Arts Council; Downtown Development Commission; Kiwanis Club Certificate of Appreciation Award; Bedford Performing Arts; Dapper Dan Civic Service Award; March of Dimes Lifetime Achievement Honoree; All-Star Chefs Award; Rotary Club of Cumberland Honoree, where he was named a Paul Harris Fellow; Maryland House of Delegates Outstanding Leadership Award; Cumberland Mayor and City Council Outstanding Citizen Award and the naming of the Nick Giarritta Park; Cumberland Theatre’s Board of Trustees Award, designating the theatre as “Nick and Shirley Giarritta Playhouse.” Nick was the donor of the art work displayed in the offices and patient rooms at Sacred Heart Hospital. Most recently, the Giarritta’s were the recipients of the Community Trust Humanitarian Award.
Appropriately, Nick was often described as “Cumberland’s Renaissance Man.” Recently, in response to receiving the Dapper Dan Award for his contributions to the area, he was so touched and responded with, “I thank you. I just love this town.”
Nick is also survived by his niece Janine and her husband Darren; nephews Gerald and his son Peyton and Glen and his wife Terry and their daughter Michelle; his great-niece and nephew Nina and L.T.
Upon Nick’s request, he will be cremated, and there will be a memorial Mass celebrated in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Dec. 14, 2013, at 10 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor Nick’s life, may make contributions to his love of the Cumberland Theatre at 101 North Johnson Street.