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108-Year-Old Barber Still Cutting Hair In NY's Hudson Valley

Anthony Mancinelli cutting his great-great-grandson’s hair
Brett Barry

On the corner of a busy shopping center in New Windsor, New York is the Fantastic Cuts family hair salon, where Brett Barry from The Soundbeat booked a haircut with a very special barber.

Anthony Mancinelli has 96 years of hair cutting experience. And that's just his working years. At 108 years-old, Mancinelli is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's oldest practicing barber. He was born in Italy in 1911. And at the age of eight, made the 10-day journey with his family to Newburgh, New York.

“Rough ride all the way in,” Mancinelli said. “Storms and everything else. The boat was going, like, up and down all the time. We spent most of the times down in a hole somewhere, rough ride. Came right to Newburgh; and I’ve been here ever since. That's where I learned the barber business. I started when I was 11 years old. I was a full-fledged barber at 12. Haircut and shave was a quarter. That’s where they got that saying. Haircut and a shave, two bits. Fifteen cents for a haircut, 10 cents for a shave.”

“I have customers know, three generations,” the barber said. “Still cutting their hair.”

On this particular Saturday, four-month-old Graham came in with his mom, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather for a haircut with his great-great-grandfather, the barber.

A few quick snips to Graham’s wispy locks, and Mr. Mancinelli was on to his next customer.

“I had six brothers and a sister,” Anthony Mancinelli said. “All my brothers are gone. My sister's gone. Most of us were in the service. I had to close up the barber shop, because Uncle Sam called me. And I come back out, opened up again, the barber shop. I don't smoke or drink. I don't overeat.”

“So we took him out for dinner last night; he had ravioli, a bowl of soup and a piece of cake, said Tiffany Mancinelli (Thomas), Anthony’s great-granddaughter and Graham’s mother. “And that was more than any of us could eat [laughs]. And he's skinnier than anybody I've ever met.

“My mother passed away 15 years ago,” said Robert Mancinelli, Anthony’s son. “And he's been by himself since then. ‘I can’t stay home; gotta keep working.’ That's what keeps him going. Every day. ‘Gotta go to work. Gotta go to work.’ OK.”

“I've been alone now for 15 years,” Anthony Mancinelli said. “So I do my own house cleaning, my own cooking. I go every day to the cemetery before I come to work. Not too many people had a wife like her.”

And so, Mr. Mancinelli surrounds himself each day with longtime customers, friends and colleagues.

“God has given me a long life,” the barber said. “I don't know why. Must be a reason. I appreciate it. I must be doing something right, I don't know. Must be a reason.”