Lasting Image: Michael Santone, A Barber Of King Street

By Joe Barkovich,  Scribbler-at-large

WTPR4959020Lasting images of Michael Santone? Can’t forget his presence in brother Peter’s barber shop on King Street many years ago. One or the other, but mostly it was Mike, cut my hair. They were always short brush cuts in warm weather months, they were big in the 1950s.

Sitting in Mike’s chair was always an experience. He could talk about neighbourhood folks and Crowland and Welland stories. He tended to be soft-spoken and liked asking questions: How’s your grandfather? How’s your father? How many years did you go to Maple Leaf School? Sometimes it seemed the questions were never ending, ‘Inquisitive’ could have been his middle name. But I appreciated that, especially after figuring out that it went to show Mike had an interest in me. Made a kid feel good.

In those days, he and wife Lillian lived across from us on Fifth Street. Mike liked going for strolls, stopping to chat with folks who were sitting on their stoops or out in front of their houses. As I recall, Mike could strike up a conversation with anybody.

He was a friend of Bill W. and Dr. Bob for more than 50 years.  He was well respected and highly regarded for the help he gave those struggling with addiction. Its been said the word “can’t” was never part of his vocabulary when it came to answering a call for his help.

Monday morning I let a friend know Mike, aged 94, had passed. I knew that mutual friend would be saddened by the news. “He was a great person and certainly helped me with my alcohol struggles,” was his response.  Many who attended the funeral Mass Wednesday morning were friends of Mike’s from 12 Step meeting groups.

Our paths crossed on occasion at breakfasts or dinners. I sat next to him at an ARID House anniversary in Thorold a couple years back. He chatted about the old neighbourhood, local history, asked about how our kids were doing. He talked about how much he enjoyed cooking, about how good his home-grown garlic and his tomato sauce were. An invite to stop by for pizza went unfulfilled, regretfully I must say.

Mike’s death notice said he had an affable nature, which is gospel. He also had a warm, winning smile. It was a million dollar smile. It shows in the accompanying photograph, another lasting image of Michael Santone.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. – Serenity Prayer.

(Lasting Image is an occasional feature on the blog.)

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