- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ROCKVILLE, Ind. (AP) - “I’ve got a hell of a headache,” Bob Rusk said barely 24 hours after fire destroyed a building housing his barbershop, a liquor store and an apartment on U.S. 36 just east of U.S. 41.

Rusk, 68, the only barber in Parke County, sat in his living room Sunday pondering his future. He has spent nearly all of his adult life cutting men’s hair - and fishing. The Newport native started out cutting hair in his hometown but has practiced his trade in Rockville for nearly 47 years, first on North Jefferson Street before moving to the Bob’s Barbershop location about eight years ago at 708 W. Ohio St.

While retirement sounds nice, Rusk said, “I can’t afford it,” explaining how medical bills have taxed his finances in recent years, with a quadruple heart bypass in 2015 and a hospital stay last fall for a bleeding ulcer. “Any money I had rat holed. It’s gone.”

Relocating is one thing, “but all my tools are buried up there,” he said, nodding in the direction of his shop just a few blocks away. “My chair melted; all my hand tools, they’re gone. It’s going to cost a small fortune just to get started again.”

Though some local beauticians have offered him work, the beauty shops are not licensed to employ barbers. Rusk said he also has a longstanding offer from a barber in Illinois, but he is not licensed in that state.

“I’m up in the air,” Rusk said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Rusk had just opened Bob’s Barber Shop Saturday morning when a man living in the apartment started knocking on his door a little before 8 a.m. saying, “Call the fire department; the place is on fire.” Rusk called 911 and then grabbed his shop’s fire extinguisher, but he quickly realized the flames consuming the apartment were too much for him to tackle.

Although initial reports indicated no one was injured, a woman living in the apartment was treated for smoke inhalation at Union Hospital Clinton, while the male occupant suffered minor burns but did not require emergency treatment, Josh Sorrels, assistant chief of the Rockville-Adams Township Fire Department said Sunday.

While the woman was able to lead one of her two dogs to safety, the other did not escape the blaze, Rusk said.

“I went over and tried to close the (apartment) door, and it was too hot, and it was starting to warp and melt. It was too late then,” he said.

Rusk and his wife, Janet, sifted through the rubble of his shop on Sunday and were able to retrieve his water soaked barber license, other documents and papers.

The house next door sustained minor smoke and water damage, Sorrels said. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

On Saturday, firefighters salvaged Rusk’s barber pole and retrieved several fishing trophies from the shop, which the barber called his “man cave.” Trophies and plaques associated with his longstanding involvement in an area bass club “are things that can’t be replaced,” he noted.

“It’s a shame for small town businesses like this,” Michael Cox, of Rockville, said of the fire. “This is such a tragedy. I would have loved to have kept it around … A lot of people lost their jobs, and the little businesses around here are what keep this town going.”

Cox, a customer of C & K Liquors and a friend of business owner Marla Mlner, also owns the building. Cox was at the fire scene Sunday to post “no trespassing” signs and measure the footprint of the building for Miner. She did not return a message seeking comment that was relayed through Cox.

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Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, http://bit.ly/2l5T2wE

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Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com

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