By Craig Hastings
Some of you may not know this man. If you never had an opportunity to have a conversation with this man you missed a moment you might never forget. Frederick J. Holste passed away last week at the age of seventy-seven years. “Fred the Barber” set up shop in a small space on South Washington Street more years ago than I can remember. He was true to the moniker, just a barber. No perms, no super curls, no disco coloring of your hair. Nope, when you sat down in the chair at Fred’s you got a haircut. How many businesses are still around that offer just a haircut? Well, there was one other freebee you were going to get when you visited Fred. My friends, you were going to hear a story or an opinion or maybe both about a subject you may have never given any thought. And when you walked out the door you may have forgotten you had just gotten a haircut!
You see, I think Fred had this world figured out. Over the years I would stop in just to get Fred’s take on the politics of whatever I might be debating in my own mind. I didn’t need a haircut, I needed a debate. I wanted Fred to either try to change my mind or agree with me. I didn’t expect for any questions to be left hanging, agree or disagree. More than being a barber, Fred was a man of God. Fred was a Catholic and a member of the Forty Martyrs Church here in Tuscola. Both of my boys were regular customers of Fred’s up until they were thirteen or fourteen. Unlike me who didn’t like going to a barber to get my haircut when I was their age, Payton and Lukas loved going to see and listen to Fred. Instead of dropping them off, I would usually take a seat and wait on them just to be part of the conversation. Everytime the conversation would go someplace I’d never been. Just listening to Fred share his versions were riveting! Fred came prepared to most conversations with full knowledge of what it was he was talking about.
One day after a haircut visit Payton and Lukas asked me how Fred knew so much about Jesus. They were maybe eight and six years old at the time. This was a tough one for me. Did anyone outside of Fred’s family really know Fred? I doubt it. As we talked I drove by the Catholic church to show them where Fred went to church. “Stop, let’s go in!” Sorry boys we can’t just go in and wander aimlessly around inside the church. “But we want to know more about Fred and what he does other than cutting our hair.” I told them that I thought that Fred Holste probably knew as much about the bible and church as any person alive. Fred took me to the school of religion many times during my visits to his barber shop. Bible study wasn’t high on my wanna do list when I was young. However, had I had a teacher of the caliber and presentation of Fred; I truly think I would have looked forward to his teachings. Fred had a booming and commanding voice that drew you in causing you to listen intently to whatever he was saying.
So I called Fred and told him that Payton and Lukas would like for him to give them a tour of the Catholic church and talk to them about what they were seeing. He jumped at the opportunity. I even think he prepared for their visit. The next week the three of us had an appointment with Fred to meet inside the Catholic church. We were there for well over an hour and it was a remarkable experience listening to Fred educate my sons (and me) about God, Jesus, Mary and all else heavenly. Fred knew something, most everything, about every single wall hanging, figurine, picture, and reason for colors in the church! How did he know all of this?! Had I known what I was going to learn myself that day I would have scheduled a day of my own years earlier!
Of all of my conversations, lessons learned, debates, etc., I had with Fred one event stands out and above all the rest. Fred gave the eulogy at Delbert Grimm’s funeral and I was in attendance. Delbert is my good friend Doug’s father. Now, I had been to many funerals before this one and never had an eulogy been delivered like this one! You had to be there to believe it. Fred never missed a beat for nearly thirty minutes without pause. This eulogy was without question the most heartfelt testimony of another man’s life I ever sat in the audience to witness! Incredible delivery remembering Mr. Grimm, God, and life itself.
Lastly, Fred called my work one day after I had returned to work from a bad accident. I had been off for nearly five months recovering at home. Fred requested I stop by his shop and speak with him about something he would tell of only after I got there. It was just him and me there in his shop. I think he made it so. I won’t tell you much of anything he said to me that day. It’s very personal and I don’t think it is something Fred would have wanted me to share; and I haven’t. I will tell you Fred preached to me about God and his purpose for each of us being who we are and what we do with our lives. He shared with me his own thoughts of why this accident had happened to me, how to learn from it, and how I should proceed forward. The conversation was a bit eerie in a way but in a positive sense. Fred spoke to me in a much more serious and intense tone than how he had in our other conversations. Most importantly, after, I felt good and felt more positive about what had happened to me. No more regrets or worries about how or if I would recover from what had happened. Before I left that day Fred gave me a pewter Angel about two inches tall and told me to take her with me wherever I might travel. That was fifteen years ago. She’s been stationed on the front of my dash in my police car ever since. Thank you Fred for reaching out to my boys and sharing with them your thoughts of how important God is in their lives. Forever memories.