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Reflections of Excellence

Friday, March 16th, Richard Brady, a long-time Lanier Upshaw client died unexpectedly at 63 years old. Richard, the owner of Reflections of Excellence, was barber to me and several of us at the agency for many, many years.

While it’s common for us to speak fondly of those we’ve lost, Richard really was a special exception to the norm. The positive impact he had on his many clients – synonymous with friends in his case – was profound.  His calling card was “Happy Day,” along with a heartfelt hug. I can honestly say that there has never been anyone in my life (including family) from whom I would get a hug EVERY time I came into and departed from their company.  A day was always brighter for having spent time with Richard.

He wasn’t one of those artificial, rose-colored glasses folks who always seem to be cheerful. Richard’s joy and zest for life was real, probably because he came so close to losing it a little over a decade ago. He fought and survived a courageous battle against throat cancer that medical experts initially gave him slim odds of winning. He decided that no matter how bleak things looked, he would CHOOSE to remain upbeat.  His doctors credited his survival on his positivity and will to live.

When Christmas came and went in 2001, Richard was too consumed with his cancer fight to take down his decorations.  Over time, he came to regard his Christmas tree as his “Tree of Life” and decided to make it a permanent fixture in his home. When asked why he didn’t just take it down, he would say,”I want my tree to remind me daily of the preciousness of life and what a gift it is.”

 “Reflections of Excellence” is a fairly “touchy feely” name for a men’s barber shop. For Richard, however, no monicker could more accurately capture the essence of his professionalism and his expectations of his staff.  He was a master barber and often lamented how his trade was becoming a lost art.  He was a perfectionist who wanted his work to ALWAYS reflect excellence.

Even though I never had to ask him to fix any deficiencies in his work, he would always take meticulous care to show me my haircut from every angle to ensure I was satisfied.  And though I never failed to tip him generously each time I saw him over the many years I went to him, he always gave me my change initially and seemed genuinely grateful when I gave him a tip.  

Richard also had a way of making sure you left his chair knowing that you were also a Reflection of God’s Excellence.  I am so thankful to have known him and call him my friend. That he touched so many in the same way, as evidenced by his packed memorial service, warms my heart.

When we all ultimately hang up our scissors and get the call home, all that will remain is the impact we’ve had on others. Thanks, Richard, for reflecting excellence and being such a shining testimony to the joy of life.  Happy Day, my friend. I’ll see you later.