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Worth Knowing: Barber Bob was a long-lived giant in the haircutting world

The Verndale barber was known far and wide for his $5 haircuts, and his never quit attitude.

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Bob Horn rides his horse among the River Trail Riders group in the June Jubilee parade in June 2021. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
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VERNDALE — For the guy who needed a haircut in Central Minnesota for the last 50-plus years, Bob's Barber Shop was the place you could count on.

While Bob Horn was never much for change in his corner barber shop for the last 40 years in Verndale, a big change can be felt in the small community since Horn passed away at the age of 82 on Wednesday, Nov. 3, surrounded by his loved ones.

You never had to wonder what you were getting from Horn when you sat down in his barber chair. The haircut he gave to most was about the same and pretty much perfect as some of his clients said. Horn ran his barber shop from 1968 to 1980 in Wadena. Then in Verndale from 1980 to the present date, according to Wadena Pioneer Journal stories of the past barbers in the region.

RELATED: A brief history of barbers in Wadena

Horn still dressed in his white barber's coat. He kept his own hair clipped tight and his face shaved smooth. Those getting one of Horn's "one kind of cut only" may most recall the barber pulling a shop vac hose out to suck away any loose hairs from atop your head. With the trim complete, he'd add a dash of powder to your neck, remove your cape and have you on your way. Oh, and the price for making you feel brand new — still just $5. People would travel from miles around just for a chance to sit in his chair.

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Horn was a cornerstone of the community. An oddity, too. Few barbers of his generation still exist. The closest, Rick Johnson, who operated in Wadena for 55 years retired in 2020. Horn was the last barber left in Wadena County.

Horn, born in Bertha in 1939, graduated from Verndale High School in 1958. He entered the barber industry a year later, when he went to barber school. Horn started out cutting hair and managing the Southdale Shopping Centre Barber Shop for a few years. He and his wife Norma lived in Rosemont until August 1968 when they moved to Wadena. He opened his own barber shop in Wadena called “Bob’s Barber Shop” and bought a small dairy farm in 1969.

By 1980, Horn made the move to Verndale where he continued to race into work each morning eager to beat any client who may be in need of a haircut at 8 a.m. sharp. Even at 82 years young, Horn could still cut his signature style. Everybody coming back for decades at a time knew exactly what they were getting from the seasoned professional.

Not just a barber, Horn could still be seen each year climbing atop his horse to ride through area parades as part of the River Trail Rider's Club and the Wadena County Mounted Posse.

Horn was quick with a joke but could otherwise go through much of a haircut without having too much to say. He was focused on sending away everyone who passed through his door looking and feeling a bit better than they found him.

Upon hearing of his passing, dozens of people responded to his online obituary with words of sympathy and recall the impact Horn had on them.

According to Horn's obituary , "Bob was always working and that was his hobby." It aligns well with a poster Horn kept hung in his barbershop of a heron attempting to swallow a frog. The frog, half way in the bird's throat is working to choke the bird. The inspirational words on the poster reminded generations of people to "Never give up." It was perhaps a phrase that stuck with Horn as he continued to do what he loved with no intentions of giving up. He and his wife Norma, were married 61 years.

Brent Grebinoski, Executive Director of the Minnesota Board of Barber Examiners, said barbers like Horn are a unique bunch.

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"There are many that love what they do and they do it for a very long time," he said. He could count 26 barbers in the state with active barber registrations earlier than Horn. The earliest being 1952.

RELATED: Johnson sets down the scissors after 62 years as a barber

Services for Horn

Visitation services for Bob Horn include two days, 5-7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7; and 10-11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 8, both at the Karvonen Funeral Home at 419 Second Street in Wadena.

Horn's celebration of life service is scheduled for 11 a.m., Monday, Nov. 8 at Karonen Funeral Home in Wadena.

He's a writer, editor, photographer, truth seeker and promoter of the Wadena area.
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