‘Mark the barber’ a cut above
For the past 35 years, Mark Peterson has cut male residents’ hair at Oregon Manor.
The first Wednesday of every month, Peterson takes each resident one by one into a small barber’s room next to the nurse’s station. He uses shears, a buzzer and comb to meticulously cut, clean up or buzz.
He knows most residents by name. “There ya go Bob, all set,” he tells one resident. “Thanks for coming today, Francis,” he says to another.
Peterson is known as “Mark the barber” at the assisted living facility. After three decades of service he has decided to retire.
On his last day, Wednesday, Dec. 4, residents wore a black hair-dressing cape which has different styles of mustaches on it, “the private eye” and “The Oz,” for instance. Staff and residents’ family members stopped by to shake Peterson’s hand and thank him.
Humbly, Peterson, told everyone his goodbyes and said he was not the one people should be thanking.
“It is humbling to see other people’s dedication,” Peterson said, referring to the staff. “All I do is cut hair.”
Peterson started cutting hair at Oregon Manor in December 1985. Residents wanted nice haircuts for the holidays and someone approached Peterson, who co-owns Mark’s Barber Shop with his wife, Cindy, at 87 N Main St.
At that time he thought it would be a one time event.
“Who knew a one-time gig would turn into a lifetime of service,” Peterson said.
Some of the residents like Allen and Casper, have been getting their haircut by Peterson since the 1970’s.
When they couldn’t come to his shop anymore, Peterson came to their homes and eventually to Oregon Manor. He also follows clients outside of Oregon; to Skaalen Home Retirement Services in Stoughton, for instance.
When he first started, the barber’s room at Oregon Manor didn’t even exist. Peterson would cut hair wherever there was space, including the friendship room or the meeting room.
He said he enjoys listening to the stories of residents. Many of them talk about the “old days” — what it was like to be a farmer before the newest technologies, waiting in soup lines during the Great Depression, and when haircuts cost just 25 cents.
Peterson knows most residents are on a small, fixed income, so he only charges for supplies. But, he said he often found himself giving away his services for free because he just couldn’t turn someone away.
Corrie Weaver, the Oregon Manor unit clerk, has worked with Peterson for 10 years. She says Peterson is always friendly and chipper when he comes to cut hair. And as a 1972 OHS graduate, Peterson knows many people in the community, she said, so when residents come have a short stay at OM for rehab, they see a familiar face.
Weaver said that the residents really appreciate the haircut because it can enhance their self worth.
“(The haircut) makes them feel like a new person,” Weaver said.
Honored by staff
Before he was done with his last client, the staff at Oregon Manor threw him a party.
There were bagels with cream cheese, fresh fruit and coffee. Twenty staff members, including administrator Tom Graves, presented Peterson with a plaque and a speech. Graves, quoted singer Taylor Hanson.
“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world,” he said.
Peterson’s wife Cindy had tears in her eyes when she thanked Graves for organizing the party. Cindy and Peterson have worked at the barber shop together since 1985 and have been married for 26 years. She said she knows him better than anyone.
“I just know what he has done and who he is,” Cindy said. “I know he is such a good person and it is nice to see him honored like this.”
At age 65, Peterson said it is just time to retire from volunteering. He will still stop by Oregon Manor on occasion, but needs a bit more time to enjoy skiing, traveling and spending time with grandchildren. However, it is sad, he said. Coming to Oregon Manor the first Wednesday of every month has been a routine of his for so long and he will miss it.
The staff beautician, who cuts the women’s hair, will now absorb Peterson’s clients. Peterson is relieved. He said he was full of anxiety thinking no one would be around to cut residents’ hair.
But now he can relax a little.
“I feel good about that,” he said. “That the people will still be taken care of.”