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Growing it out, then cutting it down for cancer research

Joe Doherty has looked a lot more like Santa Clause than himself for the past four months. With a white beard and long hair, people he’s known for years didn’t even recognize him at first.

That is, until this week, when he finally had his hair cut and his beard shaved off.

The Linwood resident decided in December to grow out his beard and not cut his hair in support of cancer research.

His son posted his photo on Facebook explaining what Doherty was doing, and they have had nearly 100 replies from people all across Canada including as far as the Yukon.

April seemed like an appropriate month to cut it off seeing as it’s cancer research month.

He hasn’t been collecting donations himself, but rather encouraging people to send in donations to their local cancer research centre.

“My parents and my two sisters and brother and two nieces all died of cancer, and then in November, Maggie’s brother, who lived here in St. Clements, he died of cancer. So after that I thought I should do something,” he said.

He made the decision after his wife’s brother died of cancer.

Friends and family have embraced his initiative. His niece in Milverton challenged all of her cousins to donate to cancer.

Linwood resident Joe Doherty hadn’t cut his hair or beard since December, until this week. He decided to do it to encourage people to donate to cancer research. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

“So there should be a little bit extra this year for the cause,” he said.

Doherty collected donations for cancer research in the rural areas around Linwood for more than 20 years, but gave it up three years ago.

He made a donation to the cause on Tuesday after Lori Beam cut off his hair and shaved him at her salon in St. Clements.

Before she took the razor to his hair, when asked if this is the longest his hair or beard has ever been, he replies:

“Yes, both,” he says with a laugh.

He hadn’t had a beard in many years, and  when he did, it wasn’t nearly as long as it was up until this week when he had it shaved off.

“It’s different, especially at night. I roll over and I think there’s something beside my head.”

While in Elmira on Tuesday he went to visit a friend at the Chemtura plant, where he used to work before retiring. They went into the cafeteria where more than a dozen of his former coworkers were eating lunch, and they didn’t even recognize him with four months worth of hair on his head and face.

Now, he’s back to looking like himself again.

“I have told people to donate to their local research centre and this disease will be beaten, if not for the present victims, but in the future for everyone’s friends and relatives,” Doherty said.

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