VETERAN OF THE MONTH | Ray Novara: The honorable barber

By Milan Eagle Media

Ray Novara was born in Kingsford, Michigan.  To us in Milan, that’s  “way up north”, cross “the bridge” and go west, near Iron Mountain.  Kingsford was the site of a Ford Motor Company factory which built wooden station wagon bodies beginning in 1931.  During WW II , Ford built a glider factory which manufactured more than 4,000 wooden frame Waco gliders for the US military.  Ray grew up in Kingsford and graduated from Kingsfort High School.  .His high school sweetheart, Caryl,  had an internship and that’s what prompted him to “move south to the Ann Arbor area”. He still has 1 brother and 3 sisters living in Kingsford.

Ray attended Professional Barber School in Hamtramck, MI. After graduating from barber school, he enlisted in the Navy serving from January of 1966 to December of 1969.  After basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois, he was stationed in Indian Head, Maryland.  He was classified as ship service.  He worked in the Navy Exchange (PX).  After a year in Maryland, he went aboard the USS Saratoga in Mayport, Florida. (She was identical to her sister, and lead ship of the class, the USS Lexington.  “Sara” was the 2nd aircraft carrier to be built by the Navy).  Ray was a barber aboard ship.  There were three barbershops, one was for the officers, one was for chief petty officers and first class petty officers and one was the crew’s barbershop.  At different times, he worked in all three shops.

I ask Ray what he thought about being on an aircraft carrier and his reply was “nice float, better than a destroyer.”    He made two Mediterranean cruises in the next three years.  He was flown back from the Mediterranean and was honorably discharged as a third class petty officer.

Arriving back in Michigan Ray went to the university where Caryl was studying and proposed, they were married in July.  Moving back to the Ann Arbor area Ray tried to find work as a barber both in Ann Arbor and in Ypsilanti.  In Ypsilanti someone told him of a possible job in Milan.  His response, “where’s Milan?”  January 1970 Ray started working in Milan for Ray Frisbie at Frisbie’s Barber Shop on the corner of Main and Wabash Streets.  In 1997, he built the current barbershop on the corner of Main and Ferman and Ray’s Barber Shop is where you’ll find him most days.  I ask why he wanted to be a barber and he said he likes people and likes talking to people.  It must be working out ok for him because July he will mark 50 years of cutting hair.

Ray and his wife have been in Milan 44 years. They have two grown children, a daughter in Howell and a son in Dexter.  On Saturdays he likes to watch the grandkids play ball.  He collects toys for the children in Mott’s Hospital around Christmas time; you’ll find a big box in the shop. He also collects used eye glasses and takes to Sears to be re-used for the needy. Ray is proud of his service to his country. In his shop you’ll find pictures of the USS Saratoga and a nice photo of Ray’s name on the Veterans Wall of Honor that another local veteran made for him.

 

The Milan Eagle honors Ray and thanks him for his service to our country.

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