Wanting “a little off the top” customer Bo Chernikoff sits down for a trim at Midway Barber Shop in Oak Harbor. Owner Dave Cleary recently returned after undergoing brain surgery for a cyst that affected his vision. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Wanting “a little off the top” customer Bo Chernikoff sits down for a trim at Midway Barber Shop in Oak Harbor. Owner Dave Cleary recently returned after undergoing brain surgery for a cyst that affected his vision. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Dave the Barber is back from brain surgery

Oak Harbor Midway Barber Shop celebrating milestones this year

Dave the Barber wants you to know his brain is just fine.

Well, at least it’s still the same as it was before his brain surgery in late November to remove a cyst.

“My wife asked the doctor before surgery, ‘Will it change him? Because he’s different and I like him that way.’

“I asked them to put in a smart chip, and they said, ‘No’, your wife wants you to stay the same.”

Dave the Barber, legally known as Dave Cleary, who’s been cutting hair in Oak Harbor since 1988, is back behind the chair, scissors in hand.

He’s been around so long buzzing the heads of kids, military men and others that three generations of one family sometimes stop in for a trim.

“I do generations from the kid’s first hair cut to the cut going off to college or the military,” said Cleary, father of five grown children and grandfather of 11.

Cleary is celebrating 30 years owning Midway Barber Shop. It’s been an Oak Harbor institution since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.

“Everyone knows Dave the Barber,” says his daughter, Sarah Betts, who joined the family business five years ago. “The store is 60 years old, and my Dad is 59 so he always says the store is old, not him.”

His mom, Elizabeth Cleary, also worked in the shop.

“We’re on the third generation,” he says proudly. “People ask how can you work with family? I say it works as long as the business doesn’t run on feelings and all the money goes in the same till.”

The fast-talking barber is also swift with the scissors. He estimates his record is 46 to 48 customers in and out of his chair in one day, all at $17 a cut.

He hasn’t changed his prices — or the decor and equipment in years. He’s old school, no website, no debit cards, no advertising. It’s cash or check only.

Cleary said he didn’t suffer pain or side effects from the surgery but needed six weeks to recover.

“It started last June. The growth was pushing on the nerve ending affecting my vision,” he explained. “My eyes weren’t tracking. My left eye would turn right but the right one wouldn’t.”

Cleary said the surgery wasn’t considered particularly risky.

Still, “they came close to a lot of high end real estate up there,” he said, pointing to his head. “My hearing, eyesight, taste, smell.”

University of Washington Medical Center neurosurgeons removed 70 percent of a benign growth on the base of his brain, Cleary said.

Many regulars popped in to inquire on Cleary’s health as his daughter ‘manned’ the barber shop.

“I’m thankful for all the customers who prayed for me,” Cleary said. “One of them told me they put my name on a prayer list but they didn’t know my last name.

“They just know me as Dave the Barber. I told them that’s what the Lord knows me as, too.”

Dave the Barber, aka Dave Cleary, has been buzzing heads and providing old-fashioned straight razor shaves for 30 years at Midway Barber Shop in Oak Harbor. The business opened in 1958. “It’s 60 years old,” Cleary says, “I’m only 59.” Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Dave the Barber, aka Dave Cleary, has been buzzing heads and providing old-fashioned straight razor shaves for 30 years at Midway Barber Shop in Oak Harbor. The business opened in 1958. “It’s 60 years old,” Cleary says, “I’m only 59.” Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

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