Charlottesville lost an icon November 18 when Kenneth Staples, owner of Staples Barber Shop, died at age 85.
“I would describe Kenny as one of those guys who looked like a duck on water,” says Jim Carpenter, a local photographer and friend of Staples since the early ’70s. “He was so smooth, but underneath, I’m sure he was always paddling to keep himself afloat.”
Staples graduated from Lane High School, worked for the C&O Railroad and served in the U.S. Army in Korea before going to work with his father, Albert A. Staples, at his barbershop in the Barracks Road Shopping Center.
“Kenny actually put us on the map,” says Carpenter, who remembers watching former NFL player, actor and current sports analyst Howie Long tell a late-night television host that he got his fresh haircut at Staples Barber Shop. As did former Virginia governor and Albemarle County resident George Allen, who always made his allegiance to the barber known, and called it a “must go to place for anyone running for office,” according to the Daily Progress.
In 1994, Allen appointed Staples to the Virginia Board for Barbers. He was appointed again in 2002 by former Governor Mark Warner.
Locally, he was also known for his service with the Charlottesville Dogwood Foundation, his dedication to serving veterans and his contribution to the Vietnam Memorial, a project Staples, Jim Shisler and Bill Gentry thought up in 1965, according to Carpenter.
Carpenter, who was also a loyal customer, says Staples would give him a ring when something newsworthy was happening at the shop. “One day, he called me and said, ‘I’ve got a bull in the front of my office.’ Sure enough, they had a bull out there in a pen, for whatever reason.”
But Carpenter says he really got to know Staples when the photographer joined the Charlottesville Dogwood Foundation as an officer in 1975.
“We became more and more acquainted,” he said. “I knew that Ken was a very interesting show person. I honestly believe, in a former life, he was on a stage somewhere.”
And Staples was quick to step up to the plate whenever the Dogwood Festival, or other community organizations such as the Lions Club, needed an emcee for an event.
“The guy’s whole life really showed his love for his community,” Carpenter says about the man he calls a “peacemaker,” who helped as many people as he could and never got upset.
“I wanted to model my life after his, just because of the way he was so civic-minded, and the way he handled different things. …He’s just one of those people you look up to and say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like Kenny Staples,’” Carpenter says.
Staples’ family will hold a funeral service for him at 3pm November 28 at the First Baptist Church on Park Street. In lieu of flowers, they ask that memorial donations be made to the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial Foundation. Donations may be sent to Jim Carpenter, 2570 Holly Knoll Lane, Charlottesville, VA 22901.