Carlos Noriega spread kindness throughout community
Carlos E. Noriega loved to find ways to brighten the day of those who needed a boost in life. During the holidays he would learn which employees at his favorite breakfast spot, Biscuits Cafe in Gresham, were struggling and give them $100 tips.
"He never wanted recognition," said his wife Diane Noriega. "Most of the time I never even knew he had done it."
That focus on random acts of kindness defined both Carlos' life and this past year he spent as president of the Rotary Club of Gresham. The Sandy resident was known for his compassion and willingness to go above and beyond for others.
Carlos, 71, died April 4, 2018, in his home surrounded by family after a short and difficult fight with cancer.
"He had a big personality, larger than life," Diane said. "He would walk into a room and be friends with everyone."
Carlos was born May 2, 1947, in Fresno, Calif., and was raised in Chowchilla, Calif., where he graduated from Chowchilla High School. He earned a degree from LaVerne University and a master's degree in criminal justice from California State University, Sacramento.
From the beginning, he devoted his life to others. Carlos served in the Navy, including two tours in Vietnam. Upon joining he dreamed of becoming a mechanic, but instead he became a builder with the Seabees. Those skills would serve him later in life as he tinkered on his home in Sandy, building many additions, such as the decks.
"This house was a project that had his stamp all over it," Diane said.
He worked as a peace officer, a crime prevention specialist in the California Attorney General's Office, and as a hearings officer with the California Youth Offender Parole Board.
Carlos loved to joke that he first met Diane when he arrested her, but in reality, the couple were introduced by a friend. A year passed after their first meeting, and then another after bumping into one another again at a function. Finally, three years after first meeting, Carlos asked Diane to coffee.
"I like to joke that he interrogated me because he asked so many questions," Diane said with a laugh.
After marrying, Carlos said he didn't want a house with a yard because he despised yard work — though he quickly broke that conviction. At their home in Sandy, he created a beautiful park where he was famous for barbecuing.
While still in California, Carlos was elected to the board of trustees for Monterey Peninsula School District, and later he supported local education as a member of the Mt. Hood Community College Foundation Board of Trustees. One of his biggest accomplishments was returning the annual dinner and auction back onto campus, because he wanted people to see the campus and be a part of it.
Retiring MHCC President Debra Derr paid special tribute to Carlos on April 21 during the college foundation's event.
"Giving back meant a lot to both of us because we started from nothing, so to help others was a blessing," Diane said. "It gave us purpose in life, and he will be missed terribly."
Rotary was another way Carlos gave back, serving as an active member for 18 years. He first joined in California, where he served as club president and other leadership roles with The Rotary Club of Marina.
He was in the middle of his presidential year with The Rotary Club of Gresham when he fell ill. He was excited to have the club participate in the annual Teddy Bear Parade last fall for the first time.
"He was always trying to promote Rotary in the community," Diane said.
Photography was one of his passions, something he picked up as the battalion photographer with the Navy. While living in the Northwest he was drawn to photographing the nature surrounding him, and he was a common sight at local events documenting whatever he could see.
"Carlos has a passion for life and loved to travel," Diane said. "I am so grateful we didn't wait to do things until later. We took the opportunities we had."
Carlos is survived by his wife of 38 years, Diane, son Marco Noriega, brother Daniel Noriega, sister Carmen Elgorriaga and nephew Jose Elgorriaga.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to be made to The Rotary Foundation in his name.