WWII vets strike up friendship in Marco barbershop
Much to his surprise, when Charles Strasser went to the Marco Barber Shop on Collier to get his hair cut, a barber around his same age, seated him and began cutting his hair.
The two men began talking.
George Thompson came to Marco to retire in the 60s, but didn't know what to do with all his free time.
"I couldn't play golf seven days a week," he told Strasser. "So I took up barbering. Barbering has been really good to me."
Thompson and friend Roy Bartlett opened a shop together at Town Center.
"But Roy didn't like cutting hair," said Thompson. "He's a fisherman. That's what he still loves to do."
Thompson and the two other barbers in the shop cut Frank Mackle's hair along with professional golfers Ken Venturi and Gene Sarazen, who spent a lot of time on Marco playing golf.
"Gene never got his hair cut anywhere but here," said Thompson, who sold the shop where he works 25 years ago.
Now at age 91, he only works Thursdays and Saturday.
Strasser lives on Marco for six months of the year. The other six months lives in Jersey in the Channel Islands.
What turned out to be another coincidence was that Thompson and Strasser both were involved in World War II.
In 1945, as soldiers, they both finished the war on the borders of Czechoslovakia. Thompson, then 21, was in Gen. George Patton's Third Army, and Strasser, then 17, was serving in the Czech Independent Armored Brigade in Dunkirk. His assignment was to bring a convoy of 12 trucks full of Czech soldiers from Germany back to Czechoslovakia.
Strasser was a dispatch rider on a motorbike and directed traffic at all the intersections.
In August, Strasser felt privileged to participate in a re-enactment by a Czech army unit of the 1944-45 encirclement of German units holding the Dunkirk area until VE Day.
Strasser had his picture taken on the same type of motorbike he rode in 1944.
"I put both pictures on my Christmas card last Christmas," said Strasser.
Phyllis Thompson and George Thompson met at a nursing home, where they both lived for eight years. They brought a home in a mobile home park for adults 55 and older.
That's where they met 91-year-old Frank Casasante, who lived next door. After about a month seeing George and Phyllis going out every night, Casasante asked where they were going.
"We go out and sing karaoke," Phyllis told him. "Do you want to come?" she asked. "He was out of the door faster than I was," said Phyllis.
Frank followed along for two years before taking to the stage.
"Now he's the star of anyplace we go," said Phyllis. "He has a beautiful voice."
Casasante also served in WWII in the army artillery. While in Europe he entertained the troops singing onstage.
All three sing at Nana's in Naples and invited Charles to come hear them and to meet other veterans. Thompson has published two CDs of his songs, which he has dedicated to "the honorable men, who served with me in combat in Normandy and the Bulge during WWII."
George, Frank and Phyllis go out four times a week together, singing karaoke and are regulars at Port of the Islands on Saturday nights and with Spanky's and Crissy's in Naples.
"They were fantastic," said Strasser, who plans on making it down to Port of the Island's next Saturday.