BEMIDJI, Minn. — Some customers called him the preacher barber. They would often get more than a haircut from Michael Flaherty.
The owner of Fade Masters in downtown Bemidji, Minn., died Aug. 11 at the age of 65 after suffering a heart attack in June. Flaherty is being remembered in the Minnesota town for his kindness and his strong Christian faith.
“He was very passionate about his faith, and he was always willing to share that with anyone who would listen,” said Mark Flaherty, one of Michael’s six children. “That's why a lot of customers know him as the preacher barber. Not only would they get a haircut, they would get a nice sermon as well. That was part of his charm.”
Flaherty, who was born in Hollywood, Calif., and raised in the Twin Cities, ran a barber shop in St. Paul before moving his family to a 100-acre family homestead near Ebro, Minn., 35 miles west of Bemidji, about 15 years ago. He turned his garage into a barber shop and called it the Ebro Barber Stylist.
“I’m 8 miles out in the middle of no place, yet I’m pulling in customers from Bemidji, Grand Forks, Dilworth, Moorhead, all over the place, even Red Lake, White Earth,” Michael told a Forum News Service reporter in 2013. That was the year he moved his business to Bemidji.
“An incredible inspiration to everyone that was fortunate enough to meet Michael,” said fellow downtown businessman Bill Batchelder of the Bemidji Woolen Mills. Batchelder remembers Flaherty for his “mentorship for young Native American males who needed just a friendly voice and an encouraging word to make them feel good about themselves.”
Mark Flaherty said his father was recently ordained as a minister and had hoped to start a church. “He was conducting services out of our grandma's house (near Ebro),” Mark said. “He also was planning on setting up a barber college in Bemidji. Everything was pretty much green lit and ready to go.”
Michael is survived by his mother, Frances Johnson; his wife, Hilda; sister, Donna Flaherty; daughters, Jennifer Flaherty, Rebecca Flaherty, Megan Flaherty and Mikayla Flaherty; sons Mark and Michael Flaherty Jr., a grandson and two granddaughters. A memorial service was held last week in Bagley.
“My father was a good person, looking out for the best interests of the people around him,” Mark said, “even strangers he might only meet once and never see them again.”