We were saddened this week to hear of the deaths of two of the city’s legendary businessmen. Nick Caldararo, 88, passed away Tuesday in Cranberry Township. If the name is not familiar to you, certainly the business that he founded and its advertising slogan is: “Nick’s Auto Body — Trust Your Body In Our Hands.”
According to a 2015 story that appeared in a joint Sharon Herald-New Castle News business magazine, it was 1957 when Caldararo rented a bay in a New Castle gas station to do body work. After learning the trade from his former boss, John Parente, who operated Parente Auto Body on Florence Avenue, Caldararo went on to establish Nick’s Auto Body in 1960. In 1968, he moved to the business’s current South Mill Street location.
Nowadays, the shop — and at least three others it spawned — is in the hands of Caldararo’s son, Steve, who grew up working at Nick’s and learned auto body work from his father and from taking I-CAR classes and earning platinum certification. He worked in his father’s business as a heavy-collision repair technician.
In 1987, when his father was seriously injured in a traffic accident, Steve Caldararo had to learn the business end of auto body repair practically overnight. Eventually, he expanded his father’s business to found Nick’s South Side Automotive, New Castle Truck and Superior Sign & Graphics.
Nick Caldararo’s legacy lives on in the name of the business he founded and the service it provides to local residents.
Just two days prior to Caldararo’s passing, the city also mourned the loss of Richard Whittaker, 90, who founded the R.E. Whittaker Company in 1961. Under his guidance, the company grew from a local janitorial supply distributor into a global leader in the field of low-moisture carpet cleaning methods. In the 1980s, Whittaker pioneered an encapsulation cleaning technology as a more effective, safe and environmentally sustainable option to traditional cleaning methods.
Whittaker’s cleaning machine and chemical innovations have led to several patents and revolutionary techniques in the maintenance of carpet and hard surface floors.
According to the company’s website, the business “is leading the industry with their development of an objective appearance measurement system that can be used to determine cleaning frequencies and objectively evaluate the effectiveness of cleaning programs on-site.
A Korean War Air Force veteran, Whittaker also served on the Neshannock Township School Board as well as with several other professional and nonprofit boards.
Whittaker also was known for his faith, which he shared through three devotional books that he authored: “One Day at a Time,” “Touching Reminders” and “Engaging with God.” His website, www.prayoneday.com, offered a weekly story or prayer to all who registered.
Nick Caldararo and Richard Whittaker each have left personal and professional legacies that still resonate in Lawrence County. We offer our condolences to the families, as well as our thanks for sharing these men with all of us.