Each Wednesday, barber Anthony Cymerys sets up his chair in the shade of an oak tree in Hartford’s Bushnell Park. For longtime clients, the homeless or those just down on their luck, the fee is always the same: a hug for a haircut.
The 82-year-old Cymerys, who is known as Joe the Barber, began offering his services 25 years ago after retiring from a career in business. He had cut hair for his family but decided to put his clippers to work for the less fortunate after being inspired by a church sermon about the homeless.
He wanted the homeless not to look homeless.
His clients line up on park benches, some of them also turning out for free meals provided on Wednesdays by a local church. One by one they take a seat in a folding lawn chair above a car battery Cymerys uses to power his clippers.
As he finished a trim on one customer recently, a loud squeal came from the battery. He gathered the mobile shop, connected the clippers to his car and picked up where he left off.
“It really is love. I love these guys,” Cymerys said. He paused and turned to his client in the chair, “You know I love you, right?”
“That’s what it’s all about,” Cymerys said.