- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - The career of one of Jonesboro’s longest working professionals almost came to a sudden halt in December, but now barber David Nelms is back, comb and scissors in hand, ready to kick off his 50th year of cutting hair.

Nelms, 68, was shopping for presents for the family when the sudden pain hit him.

“It shot up from my chest and into my jaw,” he told the Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/20tvRLd ). “Starting out, I couldn’t even move.”

Confused, but with some medication on hand, Nelms took the pills. The pain subsided.

“We had thought before that it was acid reflux,” he said. “All the tests and examinations I had ever taken told me I had a strong heart and low cholesterol.”

However, as Nelms described the symptoms to friends, they urged him to see a doctor. One close friend, Linda Pridmore, who works at St. Bernards Healthcare in cardiovascular surgery, helped move an appointment to a closer date. It was a decision Nelms said likely saved his life.

“I was sitting there looking at it with the doctor, and he pointed to it and said, ‘This is a widowmaker. If you have a heart attack, you won’t survive.’”

Shocked, Nelms went into surgery the next day.

Now, he is slowly and happily returning to work at the David Nelms’ Hair Palace on Phillips Drive.

The two-hour days from Tuesday to Thursday have him and the 50 years worth of loyal customers rejoicing, his wife Paula Nelms said.

“Everyone really worries, but he is very dedicated,” she said. “He loves the people and this job.”

Longtime customer Keith Chitmon was in the chair Thursday. Chitmon, an airline pilot, has been getting a trim at the barber shop since he returned to Jonesboro in 2000.

“It’s the place I always come to,” Chitmon said. “I love coming here, and it’s great to see him back at work.”

Many a notable head can attribute its hairdo to Nelms. Business owners like Wallace Fowler, lawyers like Bill Bristow and a plethora of other movers and shakers have visited his chair.

“When we got married he started cutting my hair,” Paula Nelms said. “I’ve always viewed it as a bonus.”

The most important element of his success has been building a rapport with his customers.

“To us they are all friends, all family,” he said. “Talking with them, knowing their schedules, calling them, I think that is what keeps them coming back.”

He plans to expand his hours as the doctors give him the go ahead, but he likes working fewer days each week now.

The couple plans to travel more and continue a passion for golf.

“The customers have been great,” Paula Nelms said. “Everyone has said, ‘Good for you.’”

The two have been volunteers for the Professional Golfers’ Association since 2000 and have attended several major tournaments including the U.S. Open and Masters.

“It is a kind of vacation for us,” David Nelms said. “You get to meet a lot of people from different walks of life. Golf is like cutting hair in that respect.”

David Nelms is happy to be back at work, but he also plans to enjoy the expanded free time.

“I have no desire to retire, but we are going to slow down a bit,” he said. “I’m glad to be here to start this 50th year.”

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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