Windsor’s singing barber, Merle Jacklyn, has a reputation around town of being the first guy to sign up to lend his talents in the name of charity — without expecting anything in return.
It’s a reputation he’s proud of, and one that has inspired those who know him to rally in his corner as he battles prostate cancer.
Jacklyn was diagnosed with the disease two months ago when he booked a routine check up after noticing some irregular inflammation. Doctors recommended the owner of the Head Start Barber Shop on Grey Street in Windsor undergo a radical prostatectomy and Jacklyn scheduled the surgery for Nov. 17 in Kentville.
The shop where Jacklyn has been serenading his customers with country classics for 35 years will remain open, with reduced hours, while his co-worker holds down the fort during the six-week recovery period.
Jacklyn can’t guarantee his fellow barber will belt out any tunes while he’s working the clippers, but he thinks his regulars will be OK with that.
“I’m not sure my singing attracts too many people,” he joked. “But… I love it so I do it.”
Jacklyn’s friends and family are hosting a benefit on his behalf to help the community-minded barber get through his recovery period without the wages he would have earned at work.
Liz Galbraith is one of many Jacklyn supporters organizing a “Kitchen Party” musical benefit to be hosted in the Games Room at the Gladys Manning Retirement Community, located off College Road in Windsor, on Nov. 23.
She says it wasn’t hard to get people on board to help the self-employed Jacklyn get through his recovery without wages, paid sick leave or unemployment benefits.
“He’s the first one to sign up for anybody else’s stuff and everybody knows it,” Galbraith said.
“He’s out there playing in the nursing homes, and every benefit, he’s the first guy to sign up. He could be doing other stuff.”
Jacklyn’s girlfriend, Sharon Walden, is often in the audience when the singing barber goes on tour to local nursing homes with his Just Over the Hill band members Muriel Gordon, Kaye Mack, Dave Hunt, Louise Hood and Clarence Reynolds.
“When you look at people certainly at that part of their life, and that’s where they’ve ended up living their last years…. anything you can bring to them to enhance their lives is very special,” said Walden, who works at the Windsor Elms.
She says residents of the Windsor Elms can’t wait for Jacklyn to play songs that take them back to the good old days.
“They all want to be there and… a lot of them specifically will say this is Merle’s night,” Walden said.
“They get up and dance together and that’s giving them a piece of their life back.”
Jacklyn says he is humbled by the community’s response to news of his illness.
“Everybody wants to do things themselves. They want to take care of their business but every once and awhile… we get to a point where we just can’t [do it alone] and we need help. It’s hard to accept that help.”
He says he can’t wait to be back on his feet, sharing his gift with the people who appreciate it most.
“I like it just as much as the people that are listening to me. When you play music, you want somebody to listen to you. Everybody wants to be heard singing, chasin’ that neon rainbow and living that honky-tonk dream,” he said.
“I don’t think of myself as anything special. It’s just that’s who I am and I’d do it for anybody.”
People who are unable to attend the benefit, but wish to help Jacklyn, can donate to the Merle Jacklyn Fund at any branch of the Victory Credit Union. The bank account information is 31553-24-9.