- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - They say the only things certain in life are death and taxes. You might want to add Joe Brown to the list. And maybe put off the “death” deal for a while. Brown is.

See, it’s certain that four days a week, Joe Brown will be at Esquire Barber Shop in Pensacola, cutting hair and giving old-timey straight-razor shaves. He was there March 11, his 98th birthday, cutting hair like he has been doing since the Great Depression.

He’s the oldest barber in Florida - and certainly one of the oldest in the nation - and has no plans to hang up his clippers yet.

“I still work because I think it’s better for my health,” a still sturdy Brown said moments after giving a clean-cut haircut to a loyal customer. “I’ll be here till the Lord takes me home.”

Birthday balloons adorned Esquire, where Brown has cut hair since 1983. Before that, he cut hair at the swanky San Carlos Hotel for 31 years, working at the now-defunct hotel until it closed.

Before that, he cut hair at various long-gone downtown locations on East Intendencia, South Palafox and Gregory streets. He felt the calling early on.

“My uncle cut hair in Milton when I was a little kid,” Brown said. “I wanted to do what he did.”

But life as a child was not easy. His father died when he was young. At age 6, he was already working the fields at the family’s farm near Jay. As a teen, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public work relief program during the 1930s, making a dollar a day.

“Out of every $30 he made, he would send $25 back home to mom,” said Pat Garber, 71, one of Brown’s four children. “She was a widow, and he was doing what he could to take care of the family.”

Brown spent some time in the Army during World War II, fighting in Germany, before returning to Pensacola to cut hair.

His kids said they practically grew up at the San Carlos.

“We grew up sitting in that chair,” Garber said. “We’d get our feet shined. They had someone who shined shoes there. Daddy would put us up in that chair and cut our hair.”

But he would not slow down once he was off work.

“He’d work all day, and come home and take us swimming,” daughter Brenda CeccaRossi said. “He loved to go fishing. He loved his family and his children. He was always pulling out a quarter and putting it in our hand.”

Brown said one reason he loves barbering is the variety of people he meets, from retirees to military folks to politicians to lawyers and judges.

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