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Barber readily clips in as customer collects on 100th birthday pledge

The haircut was 100 years in the making.

Tony Lewandowski, who now lives in ElderWood Health Care at Maplewood on Bennett Road in Cheektowaga, will turns 100 on July 14. Until he moved into the retirement community in 2008, he had been a longtime customer of Bob & John's Barbershop at Union Road and Como Park Boulevard in Cheektowaga.

Thursday night, John Galuski, the John in Bob & John's, came to make good on a promise made almost 20 years ago.

"He used to say, 'Give me a good one; it'll be my last,' " said Galuski, 70, of Elma. In an attempt to encourage Lewandowski to think positively about his longevity, Galuski told him that when he hit 100, he would cut Lewandowski's hair for free.

Galuski had forgotten about the entire exchange until he received a visit last week from Lewandowski's daughter, Rita Neubauer of West Seneca.

At first, Galuski thought Neubauer had come to tell him Lewandowski had passed away. Instead, she told Galuski her father was about to hit 100 and he was calling to collect on a debt owed to him.

Despite his age, Lewandow-ski is still quite sharp, according to his daughter. "He asks about his old neighbors on Raymond Avenue [in Cheektowaga]; he asks about his cousins; he asks about my son in Texas," she said.

Lewandowski had moved to ElderWood two years after his wife, Mary, died. He had spent his career as a furniture upholsterer, including 27 years at Comfort Furniture Upholstering at Broadway and Schmarbeck Avenue. In his younger days, Lewandowski was both a Cub Scout and Boy Scout with St. Stanislaus Troop 1, one of the first Boy Scout troops in the United States, located in Bay City, Mich.

Neubauer and her daughter, Bonnie Gunn of Lancaster, pushed Lewandowski's wheelchair toward ElderWood's salon on the second floor. When Lewandowski noticed Galuski, he broke out into a bright smile and a laugh.

"I remember, John!" he said.

Galuski draped a maroon hair cloth over Lewandowski, tied it off in the back and set about his work. Galuski, practiced in the art of the barbershop conversation, also threw in a few timely quips for free.

"If [the haircut] doesn't work, we'll give you this hat," he said, producing a dingy blue baseball cap.

At one point, Lewandowski mistakenly referred to Galuski as his brother, the Bob in Bob & John's Barbershop. "It's OK, my mother used to do the same thing," Galuski said.

"It feels good that John's doing this," Lewandowski said as Galuski cleaned up his full head of gray hair, circling around with a pair of scissors and a comb. "He always gave such good haircuts."

Galuski's gift for his lifelong customer didn't end there, however. After putting away the comb and clippers, Galuski had another promise for Lewandowski.

"I'll do the rest of the haircuts in your life if you want," he said. "For free."

Neubauer, sitting in the corner of the salon, smiled delightedly. She told Galuski that he could expect another visit in about two or three months.


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