Super Senior: Joe DeGray

By  | 

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) Time is something Joe DeGray doesn't like to waste. But it's after Christmas and Joe's Barbershop has empty chairs.

On any other day he'd be clipping away. DeGray has been cutting hair for 60 years.

The 84-year-old sold the business a while ago, but he still works mornings. Shelley Bryant owns the place.

"Oh, he's the heart and soul of this barbershop," Bryant said.

"I just like to be with people, you know? And I think being active keeps you a little sharper, a little healthier," DeGray said.

Regular customer Mark Perrin, a regular customer, has know DeGray for years. "Sometimes there's a line of folks waiting outside this store waiting for him to show up at 7:59:59. You can set your clock by it," Perrin said.

DeGray was born in Middlebury. He was only 11 when he lost his father. He grew up fast, working on farms to help support the family. DeGray became a teen handyman at the Bread Loaf Inn, home of the Middlebury College Writers Conference that was made famous by Vermont poet Robert Frost. DeGray, who struggled through high school, became friends with Frost. On a few occasions they shared Thanksgiving dinner and even played softball together.

"It was interesting, he was a fairly old man and he played shortstop," DeGray said.

Reporter Joe Carroll: I just don't see Robert Frost playing softball.
Joe DeGray: Well, he wasn't very good at it.

Later, the barber would cut Frost's hair.

"I've never seen somebody walk through the door that he didn't know," Bryant said.

Next stop for DeGray -- the American Legion. He is the commander of the local Post 27.

Reporter Joe Carroll: How often are you here?
Joe DeGray: At the Legion? Everyday. Seven days a week.

DeGray does the books and helps raise money for local charities. Every year the Legion gives away close to a $100,000 to those in need.

Reporter Joe Carroll: I think a lot of people would be surprised to here that.
Joe DeGray: I know they would. They think we're only a drinking club, you know? And we have a lot of members that don't drink a thing. They just want to be part of the Legion, you know?

DeGray doesn't think he's special, but his awards would say otherwise. Sixty years of volunteering on the Bridport Fire Department. A call last summer was one of the worse. A car and a pickup hit head on, killing four. For DeGray, it's a poignant reminder of how fragile life is, and to give with the time you have. "You only go around once, you got to do all you can while you're here," he said.

A cut above the rest.