A memorial service for Portola Valley veterinarian, gardener, vintner and longtime resident Carlo Besio is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 1, at 5 Cherokee Court in Portola Valley. Dr. Besio was with his family at his home when he died on Monday, April 11. He was 86.
Dr. Besio was a native of San Jose and the son of Bert and Mary Besio. His parents were first-generation Italian Americans, "a foundation and an inspiration to him throughout his life," his daughter Kathryn Besio said. "He lived his 86 years filled with an energetic love of learning and doing."
"Carlos was an awesome guy," said Ron Ramies, a town resident and the owner of Portola Valley Fuel, a gas station and auto repair shop.
Resident Ellie Ferrari brought her small animals to Dr. Besio. "He truly was the old-time vet and would discuss with you measures to cure your ailing animal, suggesting you try one remedy and if it did not work, he would suggest another," she said in an email. "He was a lovely, soft-spoken gentleman and those are the memories he will leave with us."
Dr. Basio got his start with animals as a stable boy, then groom, then riding instructor at the Menlo Circus Club in Atherton. After he graduated from Bellermine College Preparatory in San Jose, his education was interrupted by service as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, which included service in Japan.
His time in Japan influenced him. He later cultivated bonsai the Japanese art of growing aesthetically pleasing miniature versions of trees and shrubs in pots and co-founded the Happi House chain of Bay Area Japanese restaurants.
After the war, Dr. Besio earned a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of California at Davis and married Jane, his wife of 58 years. He practiced in Portola Valley for 36 years and the couple raised four children. He retired in 1998.
After he retired, "Carlo's love of his vineyard and wine rekindled his interest in his Italian ancestry and he traveled to Italy to study Italian where he and Jane experienced la dolce vita," his daughter Kathryn said.
In his Portola Valley vineyard, Dr. Besio raised mostly Sangiovese and Dolcetto grapes, but also Syrah and Pinot Noir, his daughter said. He rode horses when young and participated in shows, but gave it up once he began his practice, though he taught his daughters to ride and would ride himself when given a chance.
Dr. Besio is survived by his wife Jane; daughters Kim of Waterville, Maine, Kathryn of Hilo, Hawaii, and Kristy of Portola Valley; son David of San Francisco; and three grandchildren.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Center for Equine Health at UC Davis.
Click here for information on the center.