Members of the North Adams community gathered at the public library Tuesday to announce donations to the city from late Massachusetts State Representative Gailanne Cariddi.
Cariddi – a Democrat and a North Adams native – died in office in June 2017 at 63. After more than 20 years as a city councilor, she was elected to represent the 1st Berkshire District in 2010. In the library’s main room – bedecked with holiday flourishes – Mayor Tom Bernard presided over the announcement of her final gifts to the city.
“We’re here to acknowledge her commitment to literacy, education, our shared history, and the remarkable natural beauty of our region – and her remarkable, unbelievable generosity in designating the proceeds from her estate to causes and organizations she believed in,” said the mayor. He said the first disbursal was to the library itself, “an unrestricted contribution of $175,000.”
The mayor said the bequest had been accepted by library trustees and the city council last fall.
“You may also recall that the council accepted a $7,500 gift for learning materials related to astronomy which supported a film series earlier this year,” said Bernard.
“Gail Cariddi was a leader who believed in an educated body politic," said city librarian Mindy Hackner. “She relished a good debate. She thought deeply about civic and civil life. She worked tirelessly on behalf of our city library, and this generous bequest will help the trustees to continue her good work.”
Hackner says Cariddi’s gift would be used for further astronomy programming. Bernard then announced that another library would also receive a bequest: “a distribution of $35,000 for the benefit of the library at Drury High School.”
“Representative Cariddi was the model of servant leadership," said superintendent of Schools Dr. Barbara Malkas. She accepted the gift on behalf of Drury, Cariddi’s alma mater.
“Her tireless commitment to her community and advocacy for the region, her work as a collaborator on important legislation, and her genuine care and compassion for her constituents are her legacy," said Malkas. "I would like to thank you Representative Cariddi, wherever you may be. We know that you held education in very high regard.”
Bernard said Cariddi’s loved ones have further enshrined her passion for education in the city by establishing a memorial scholarship fund in her name at the Massachusetts College Of Liberal Arts.
“I’ve been told that Gailanne was a familiar fixture on our campus, talking with our students, loved to teach them about how state government works," said Robert Ziomek, MCLA’s vice president of advancement. “Her impact continues on our campus through the generosity of her family and friends with this newly established scholarship that will go to a sophomore or junior undergraduate student from Massachusetts with a preference for students from the community she represented, as well as those who share her commitment for politics and the environment.”
Bernard discussed Cariddi’s largest bequest: “I will be bringing to the city council for their consideration and approval the acceptance of a $210,000 distribution to the city of North Adams, and I quote here, ‘for the purpose of maintence and upkeep of the bike path, pedestrian path connecting the town of North Adams and the town of Williamstown’ – which is to say, the bike path in North Adams, the Cariddi Mile.”
She also left some of her estate to the city’s historical society. Bernard wrapped up with a reflection on Cariddi’s lasting impact on North Adams.
“Some, like those of us in our room, will know it and appreciate it," said the mayor. "Some will never know it. And I think that too is a testament to the quiet, humble way that Representative Cariddi did her work. Not seeking the spotlight, but seeking first and foremost to serve.”