GREENVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — A barber in Greenville is celebrating his 96th birthday on Aug. 13, and he is still up on his feet, cutting hair.
William Henry Brown, or Bill to many people, has been cutting hair for more than 50 years.
Before he became a barber, Brown wanted to go into the military. But when he tried to join the Navy at 17 he was seen as physically unfit due to a heart condition that he received after being ill as a child.
The next year, he tried again, and it was the same result: physically unfit.
“I felt bad, being a draft dodger, and all my buddies and everyone were in. (My) cousins, nephews … So, no, it didn’t feel right,” Brown said.
On his third attempt, he finally was drafted into the Army and sent to Germany during the Korean War.
“I put two years over there. Then in December of 1952, they sent me home,” Brown said.
After coming home, he worked in Detroit at a factory. Then he took a trip to West Michigan and applied for a job at a barbershop in Greenville, which he got.
“I drove from Caledonia, 50 miles one way here, for two years,” Brown said.
Then one day, he came to work and was asked if he wanted to buy the barbershop. After talking it over with his wife, he said yes.
“It’s been an experience and everybody, as the clientele comes in, everybody’s personalities are different,” Brown said.
It became Bill’s Barbershop, a one-chair barbershop where you don’t need to schedule an appointment you just drop in.
“If they’ve never been here, give me a shout. And don’t be afraid to talk to me because I don’t bite,” Brown said.
He credits his faith and his late wife, Clara, for helping him navigate tough times in his life.
“I survived and I’m still surviving today. God has different plans. God does different than what government and men do,” Brown said.
While he loves being a barber, Brown said it is also something he needs to do to survive.
“Thank God I can work because I don’t have the pension. I have social security and haircuts. So I budget and I live on what I make,” Brown said.
The 95-year-old works six days a week at his barbershop. Brown said by staying calm and adapting to different situations, has helped him reach this milestone.
“Whatever comes along, I’m going to have to roll with the punch and I’m a survivor,” Brown said.