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February 3, 2010 > Fifty years of making a difference

Fifty years of making a difference

Submitted By James F. McGee

Fifty years ago John Locatelli graduated from Hayward High School at seventeen years of age and looked to his future. He wasn't sure what he would do for a career or even a short term job. John soon found out that it was difficult to get any job since he wasn't 18 years old yet. So, he decided to enroll in a barber's school in Oakland to learn a trade he could use or at least something to fall back on. In April of 1960 John graduated from the school and soon after got a job cutting hair, assuming it would only be temporary. The job was not temporary and John Locatelli is still cutting hair 50 years later.

John has been making a difference for five decades, not just in grooming boys and men so they are presentable for jobs, job interviews, and their families, but also as a good listener and advisor. He takes pride in saying that he is now working on the fourth generation of some clients, great-grandchildren that come in on occasion.

I first met John Locatelli in 1992, when he was working at John's Barber Shop in Newark. John had already been cutting hair at that location for over 25 years. My old barber in Alameda had recently retired and after one trial at a chain hair salon I decided to find a real barber. I was in my third year of teaching and coaching in Newark schools at the time.

John did a great job cutting my hair, but right off the bat I was even more impressed with his knowledge of the local community and sports. We had a nice conversation that first day and I already looked forward to returning a month later. At that time, I had no idea I would still be getting my hair cut by John almost 20 years later, but that is what has happened and I believe that I am a better person for it.

Through the years, John has always asked me about how I was doing, as an educator and as a person. He has always been a good listener and would often give me sage advice such as one would receive from a father or uncle. John always has good things to say about people and is always upbeat and positive even when things were not going that great for him in his own situation. I'm sure that he has done the same for countless other clients, that he can also call friends, throughout the many years of his service.

Some of the most special times in my life have been the numerous trips to John the Barber that I took with my father-in-law, who recently passed away. For many years we would meet at the Newark location until John moved to Livermore and my father-in-law stopped driving. At that point, I would drive my father-in-law to Livermore through the beautiful Vallecitos Canyon, to get our hair cut every month or so.

My father-in-law wasn't a big talker with people in general, but he would always enjoy having a conversation with John. They would talk back and forth about the Giants (the team my father-in-law used to play for) and sometimes even have a few laughs about the recent foibles of the Golden State Warriors. Dad sure looked forward to getting his hair cut and looking really good, but more importantly, I think he really looked forward to listening to John and having John listen to him.

John was never judgmental and always supportive. Every so often he would tell a hilarious joke or two and along the way touch on some light political banter. I am so lucky to say that John the Barber is one of my friends; but more than that, I am so lucky that John the Barber has shown me how much of a difference one person can make during his lifetime. A lifetime of service, conversation, and a little hair cutting along the way!

James Francis McGee is the Assistant Vice-Principal at Newark Junior High School.

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