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Heidelberg barber shop has empty feeling after owner's death

| Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Marie Henry isn't sure what will become of the relics and the barber shop itself on East Railroad Street in Heidelberg now that Charlie Joseph has died.

As Marie Henry cleans out her father's barbershop, she is transported back in time.

Barber chairs from the 1950s, clippers from the 70s — an old-fashioned heater for the shaving lather. The sign out front simply reads “Barber.”

She said she is not sure what will become of the relics or the shop now that her father, longtime Heidelberg barber Charlie Joseph, has died.

“He had the basics,” she said, gesturing to counter still lined with bottles and combs, clippers and scissors. “That's what he was happy with.”

She said she hopes maybe a small business will rent the shop on East Railroad Street — an insurance agent or lawyer, if she is lucky.

“It would make a good beauty salon,” she said.

The shop on East Railroad Street had been Charlie Joseph's since the 1960s, ever since he fixed it up and moved his business into it from its former spot right next door.

She said his clientele was made up of mostly “older fellows.”

“A lot (of them) had been coming to dad for a long, long, long time,” she said. “A lot of men don't want to go to these modern places that serve both men and women. They like the older barber shop where they can talk about whatever.”

He did have two female customers, she said, but “he would have preferred not to do lady's hair.”

She said it is strange being in the empty shop.

“When he wasn't busy, he would read magazines or listen to the radio,” she said. “He didn't have cable, but he liked old movies, especially musicals, so he would put them on his DVD player.”

She was surprised by the number of people who attended his Dec. 1 funeral.

“He was just an old man trying to make a living,” she said.

Borough manager Joe Kauer called him a Heidelberg staple.

“Charlie and his shop were an integral part of our community,” Kauer said. “His desire to live and work in the same community for over 90 years is nothing less than a role model for us younger generations to follow.”

It was his life, Henry said.

“He was always here,” she said. “Even at 93, he was here four days a week, promptly at 9 a.m. and leaving at 4:30 p.m.”

Unless, of course, someone needed an earlier or later appointment, she said. He was always accommodating.

“He did as much as he could do at 93,” she said. “It was enough to keep him getting up, making his bed and having his breakfast and coffee.”

She said he did what he liked up until the very end.

The morning of Nov. 27, she said, he had bacon and eggs for breakfast – usually his Sunday meal. Family gathered at Henry's home, where Joseph was staying, to get ready for the holiday — the next day was Thanksgiving.

Joseph sat in a chair in the living room while his adult children took turns sitting on the floor while he worked on hair they said was “just unmanageable.” He began to feel weak, Henry said, and went to take a nap.

Charlie Joseph died a few hours later.

“I knew from years ago that the only way we would get him to leave the shop or house was to carry him out,” she said. “Even in the last days of his life, he wouldn't let me turn the phone in the shop off — he thought he could come back.”

She said her father hadn't planned for what would happen to his shop after his death.

“He had been a barber for so long by himself that that's what he wanted,” she said. “This was his life.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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