BEACON FALLS — The buzzing of an electric razor was getting louder and closer to Paul Geary’s head. He had just seconds left to savor the attachment to his iconic hair.
“I was nervous,” said the Woodland Regional High School English teacher. “Then I kinda just wanted it to be over. I just wanted to wake up from this horrible nightmare. Then I kinda wanted to throw up.”
Luckily, Geary’s trademarked, flowing locks—not his lunch—hit the floor last Friday in the Woodland cafeteria to end the second annual Beards for Bucks fundraiser.
Geary’s hair was the motivating factor behind the fundraising effort, which he spearheaded along with senior Sara Hughes, president of the Woodland Regional Student Council.
The program raised nearly $3,500—including a $2,000 donation by an anonymous teacher—for the Eustace family of Prospect. Ryan Eustace, the 17-year-old who died in an accident last summer, would have been a senior this year.
Ryan’s twin brother, Sean, was one of nearly two dozen students and teachers who grew facial hair for about three weeks in January and February. Students and staff donated money throughout the campaign in hopes of raising the $2,000 needed to shave Geary’s head.
Sure enough, the school reached the goal—and then some—which took Hughes and others by surprise.
“I was extremely surprised,” Hughes said. “We were just over a grand three days ago and then there was an anonymous donation of $2,000 by a teacher. That completely put us over our goal. I was incredibly shocked.”
Geary was as taken aback as anyone when he learned the final tally meant his legendary hair was soon to be no more.
“I didn’t think we were going to get $2,000,” Geary said. “That’s why I agreed to this craziness. But I made my peace with it. Seriously, though, I’m very pleased we raised so much money.”
The shaving turned into a social event, as the school’s jazz band serenaded more than 100 students, faculty, and guests, including Geary’s parents and the school mascot, who gathered around the barber’s chair to behold the historic haircut.
English teacher Nancy Manning won a raffle and earned the honor—complete with pressure—to wield the razor.
“I did not want to hurt him,” Manning said, although Geary repeatedly winced and even shouted the occasional, “Ow, ow, ow!”
Geary was happy that the mammoth responsibility of shaving his head went to Manning and not someone else.
“I’m glad it was her and not [co-worker Joelle] Kilcourse,” Geary said with a hint of relief. “That would have scared me.”
After Manning finished her lap around Geary’s head, a few others tried their hand with the razor to finish his hair and beard, including his mother, Eustace, and volunteer barbers Carlin Hayes and Ashely Spinella, who donated their time and a cake from Edible Dreams.
Geary’s hair—which he’s slicked back for years—was reduced to a size two, or about ¼ inch thick. Since he arrived at Woodland in 2002, he’s always sported the long style.
“It’s been like that since college,” Geary said. “This is seriously the shortest I’ve had it since fifth or sixth grade. I thought it looked cool. That’s basically why. For a long, long time the chicks dug it.”
Though Geary said his head felt cooler after the haircut, he did have some post-shaving concerns. He wondered if the lack of his hallmark trait would have any negative effects on his teaching ability.
“It could be like Samson when he lost his power,” Geary said, referring to the situation that plagued the biblical hero after his hair was cut. “It’s a concern.”
Athletic Director Brian Fell—scantily haired, himself—reminded Geary that he once had luscious locks like Geary, which visibly unnerved the latter.
Others, including school psychologist George Meyers and Eustace, also took their turns in the barber’s chair to get their beards shaved. But the spotlight was on Geary, whose new look sparked debate among students.
Most seemed to like his temporarily shortened style.
“I think he looks like he lost 10 pounds on his head,” said junior Taylor Cummings. “He looks like a whole new person.”
Some begged to differ.
“I think he looks like a 12-year-old,” said junior Nicole Ciaramella.
Geary said he wasn’t sure whether the compliments he received were genuine or not.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I saw some of the girls’ faces and they looked horrified. I look all right now, but in like a week or two [my hair is] going to be in between and look horrible.”
What won’t look horrible is the effort made by Geary and the Woodland community to help the Eustace family.
“I was a little shocked,” Eustace said. “It was really great, that’s really all I can say. I was really happy for it. They really care. When a student goes through trouble, they help out, and that’s important.”