Theo the Thief
Recently I had the opportunity to enjoy lunch with my long-time, now retired barber-friend, Theo. He retired about six years ago and is enjoying every minute, stating he’s never been happier or more content. My sentiments exactly! Theo's dad was originally from Canada having immigrated as a youngster and eventually marring a girl from West Virginia. Theo was born shortly thereafter. He has many relatives from both areas who invariably creep into his conversation and are featured in his many stories. Theo visits Canada and West Virginia regularly to see his relatives so he can “refresh” his stories.
Theo is about my age, so we have a lot in common. Like me, he loves sports and history. Because of his storytelling prowess, I always enjoy our lunches twice a year or so. Whenever he’s sharing a story, his hands are moving all over the place to accentuate the tale. This most recent lunch was no exception, as napkins and silverware were flying off the table as he expounded about this and that. I recall him once nicking my ear during a haircut while he was telling one of his infamous stories.
Speaking of stories, here’s how he got his neighborhood nickname, “Theo the Thief”! Alongside his barber chair, he maintained a thriving sports card and memorability business in his shop, which tended to attract the neighborhood kids, including the two sons of a local family we’ve befriended. Theo would invariably connive her two boys out of a valuable baseball card, exchanging it for several cards of less noteworthy players. The boys, thinking they got a good deal because they traded one card for multiple cards, always bragged to their parents about their “steal”. They never broke the bad news to the boys, not wanting to disappoint them, but privately, they stuck Theo with that pesky moniker.
Theo also was an avid reader about anything related to the Civil War, as his West Virginia mother had distant descendants who fought for the South during the war, so his shop included many prints from that era, including this one from the battle of Antietam. Inspired by this print, my wife and I had the honor of walking over the famous bridge several years ago while touring the battlefield.
Theo loves old cars, especially his chopped and customized 1949 Ford shown above. We captured this candid photo of Theo while cruising in his classic to the local Dairy Queen. You can get a real feel for his sense of humor just by the expression on his face - meanwhile his wife, next to him is on her cell phone, having seen and heard it all before, is tuning him out!
Shortly after Theo retired, I contacted the owner of the strip mall where his barber shop had been located to see if we could remove the sign that hung above. The owner gave us the go-ahead so my son and I were able to get it down. It sat on my workbench in the garage for several months as I attempted to clean and restore the sign. The most troublesome part was getting the neon lights to function properly, which was accomplished after buying a used but functional ballast on Craig’s List. My son and I then presented the restored sign to Theo, where he made room in his crowded garage to hang it on the wall next to his ’49 Ford classic. He proudly lights it up every time I visit.
A video was sent in Theo's most recent email that I enjoyed. It’s a song by Toby Keith about Clint Eastwood about “not letting the old man in” with excerpts from Clint's recent movie The Mule.
Theo's emails always sign off with the familiar barber pole emoji: TheoHe’s one of a kind and a true friend!
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