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Oscar Isaacs, a barber and friend to all, dies at age 83

Oscar Isaacs, who considered customers to be his family, died Saturday at age 83                                                                                                                                                                               Oscar Isaacs, who considered customers to be his family, died Saturday at age 83

Much of southern Henderson County is mourning the loss of longtime barber and community icon, Oscar Isaacs.

Isaacs, 83, died on Saturday after a battle with Covid-19. By Sunday night tributes of flowers had piled up outside his East Flat Rock barbershop and condolences stacked up on social media.
“I never looked at Oscar as a competitor,” fellow barber Josh Ballard said. “He was a mentor. He was always a good man just to stop and talk to even if you didn’t need a haircut. He is definitely someone who is going to be missed in the community.”
Ballard, 41, described Isaacs as a fixture in the community for years and someone he looked to for guidance when he began his career as a barber almost 20 years ago.
He never forgot what Isaacs told him: “Just make sure people are appreciated when they come in. Be there for them the way they are for you.”
Isaacs also told Ballard to make sure he shakes hands with each customer after he is finished with their hair.
Ballard, who operates Helms Barbershop near Mud Creek Baptist Church in Flat Rock, said he made a commitment to go to clients’ homes and even nursing homes because that was something Isaacs did.
“That was something I wanted to do too,” he said.
Ballard left a tribute to Isaacs on Facebook, along with many others. All described their barber as a friend and kind man. One man commented that Isaacs had been his barber for 25 years while another said Isaacs had cut the hair of many generations of his family.
“Oscar is a blessing to our East Flat Rock community. We are so sad to hear that he has passed away and know he has been a hard-working, humble and nice man,” one woman commented. “He gave our son his first haircut,” another said.
Several flower bouquets were propped against the door of Isaacs’ barbershop on Lamplighter Lane in East Flat Rock over the weekend.
A sign on the building next to the red, white and blue striped barber’s pole reads simply Barber Shop with Isaacs’ name in smaller letters near the bottom.

'Everyone is devastated'

The outpouring of love and support from the community has been overwhelming, Isaacs’ children said.
“It’s been incredible for all of us,” said his daughter, Deborah Isaacs. “We’re learning an incredible amount about Dad. It makes you feel good inside to know how much he meant to people.”
The stories his former customers are sharing also bring comfort to the family, his daughter, Jennifer Thiessen, said.
Many say Isaacs gave them their first haircut while others say he cut their hair for their entire life. Isaacs was the barber for several generations of many families, Thiessen said.
“Everyone is devastated,” she said. “They can’t believe this has happened. They can’t believe he’s gone.”
A native of Kentucky, Isaacs served for a time in the Merchant Marines before moving to Henderson County decades ago to marry his late wife, Joan Gaynelle Isaacs. He began training as a barber shortly after leaving the Merchant Marines.
Isaacs worked as a barber for more than 50 years in the Tuxedo and East Flat Rock communities. For many of those years, he ran the Tuxedo Community Store and later Hill’s General Store in East Flat Rock while also working as a barber. He never thought about retiring, his daughters said.
Deborah Isaacs said she talked with her father two weeks before he fell ill with Covid and asked if he might retire soon.
“He said he enjoyed it. I think his customers motivated him and kept him going,” she said.
Her dad gave a similar response recently when a doctor suggested he might want to get off his feet and retire, Thiessen said.
“He said, ‘I don’t go to work to stand on my feet. My customers are like my family,’” Thiessen said.
Isaacs knew his customers by name, knew their families and often knew when they needed a little help.
He went to customer’s homes when they could not get out to the barber shop. And he refused to charge people when he thought they might be struggling financially. When he ran the community store and later the general store, Isaacs often boxed up groceries and donated them to families in need.
“I’ve seen him give money to people in grocery stores,” Thiessen said, adding that he once bought a ball for a little boy he saw standing in line at a store.
Isaacs had a way with kids, especially when they came to the barber shop for a first haircut, his son, Brad Isaacs, recalled.
“He was one of the best at that,” Brad Isaacs said. “He’d whisper so they’d have to pay attention to hear him. He just had a way with them."

Isaacs son, Rex, said never knew anyone who could match his father's character.

"He was the most selfless, forgiving, generous man I've ever known," he said. "I loved him, and I will deeply miss him until I see him again."

Brad Isaacs said he hopes to one day have the kind of reputation his father has.

“I hope people would talk about me at least half that good,” he said. “He was one of a kind.”

In addition to his children, Isaacs is survived by a brother, Tex Isaacs; the spouses of his children and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Services for Isaacs will include at visitation from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. followed by a funeral service at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at Tuxedo First Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon. The service will also be made available later on the church’s Facebook page.
A private graveside service will follow. The family decided to have the graveside service at the same time of day that Isaacs always visited and left flowers at his wife’s grave.
The family asks that all guests wear a mask and maintain social distance. Anyone with photographs or stories about Isaacs are welcome to share them on the Facebook page dedicated to his memory. Forest Lawn Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.