To the editor: Mount Carmel not only lost a great barber but a patriot and a real character with the passing of Roy Edmonds. Roy cut hair in his Third Street shop for 52 years, which is probably a record. But more important, this Kentucky transplant who fell in love with the coal region was a friend of more than 50 years.

I became his customer in 1963 while a high school student. Five years later, when I returned from Vietnam, he gave me a free haircut. His only condition was that I had to wait my turn. As all of his customers knew, the only two people who could cut in line were "the pope and Billy Graham."

What attracted multiple generations to Roy was his personality. He not only knew his customers but would also ask about their family members by name. He routinely introduced his customers to one another. He could talk with anyone and share often self-deprecating stories and clean jokes.

He always had opinions to share but none were ever negative. His political discussions, which often began with, "they should all be locked up," allowed him to gauge a customer's viewpoint and avoid any arguments.

After enlisting in the Air Force in 1965, I never returned to live in town, but still visit my mother and siblings several times a year. Roy's barber shop was always on the agenda, even if it was just to bring him coffee. The Styrofoam cup was usually set in line with several others. I once asked him if people brought him coffee in tribute to his barbering skills. "It's self-defense," he joked.

His always clean basement shop, which I don't recall ever being changed except for an occasional paint touchup, was right from Mayberry.

Roy's customers came to appreciate his take on the latest happenings rather than focus on the sparse surroundings, which included old red leather seats and a 12-inch black and white TV perched atop a bookcase with dated magazines and old high school yearbooks.

His display of pictures of ships underscored his time in the Navy in the mid-50s. His visit with a shipmate to Mt. Carmel and the friendly reception to his "crackerjack" uniform is what hooked him.

Despite health problems during the past decade, Roy always maintained the positive outlook and attitude that kept customers coming in to be "peeled like an onion."

I wish the best of the best to Jess Hatfield, Roy's former apprentice who has taken over his shop and hopefully, his way of doing business. I'll see him next time I'm in town.

Dave Skocik

Dover, Del.