Pietro Vidi, 71, sharpener of tools

September 12, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

Pietro Vidi, a Northeast Baltimore man who spent most of his life practicing his family's trade, sharpening knives and tools, died Friday at St. Joseph Hospital after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 73.

Known to friends, family and customers as "Uncle Pete," Mr. Vidi was part-owner of the Vidi Sharp Shop in Hamilton. He earned his living using the same methods his grandfather, a traveling grinder, used in the 1800s.

A native of Pinzolo, Italy -- a small, mountain village in the Italian Alps -- Mr. Vidi immigrated to Baltimore in 1935 with his family at age 14. His father, Pietro Vidi Sr., had come to the United States in 1904 and later returned for his wife and five children.

After learning English at St. Leo's Elementary School in Little Italy, Mr. Vidi joined the family business, pushing a cart through the Baltimore streets and grinding tools and knives for homemakers, chefs and other business owners. A pedal, similar to those on manual sewing machines, operated the stone.

Mr. Vidi's father told his children: "You either work with your brains or you work with you back," Mr. Vidi recalled in a 1978 article in The Sun. "I work with my back."

Business increased after World War II, when the family expanded the mobile grinding service to the surrounding metropolitan area. Now, the grinder had a motor attached and the brothers used a truck to visit their customers.

Around the same time, the family moved to the Hamilton area, where Mr. Vidi and his brother, Nilo, opened the Vidi Sharp Shop in the late '60s.

"Everyone in that area at the time would have fondly known him," said his niece, Rosanna Monaldi. "He was real sweet. He was always making little noises and singing."

Mr. Vidi would build his grinding machinery from scratch, often using scraps of metal, Ms. Monaldi said.

"When they put the grinder on the truck, they had to put aluminum all over the back so the sparks wouldn't start a fire," she said. "He'd find metal from old car doors and bang it down and fix it.

Mr. Vidi worked full time at the shop until 1989, when he went into partial retirement. He retired fully from the business in 1991 at the age of 71.

"He just couldn't stay away from it," Ms. Monaldi said.

A veteran of World War II, Mr. Vidi served on a postal air carrier that made rounds from Anchorage, Alaska, to Spokane, Wash., two or three times a week.

In recent years, he took several trips to Italy to visit the "old country," Ms. Monaldi said.

"He really enjoyed it," she said. "But he always liked what America had to offer him."

A Mass of Christian burial was to be celebrated at 11 a.m. today at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church, 4414 Frankford Ave.

Mr. Vidi is survived by his twin sister, Maria Monaldi of Baltimore; a brother, Nilo Vidi of Woodbine; 12 nieces and nephews; 25 great-nieces and great-nephews; and one great-great niece. He is also survived by his longtime friend, Eunice Williams of Hamilton.

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