An unexpected e-mail leads Ruth to remember a stylist she'll never forget and cherish the lessons he shared.

We live in a world of busy distractions. As salon owners, you know what I mean—there's always one more thing to do. Yet, there are times when something comes out of nowhere to knock the wind out of us. The latest for me arrived in the form of an e-mail:

Ruth Roche
Ruth Roche

I have been a hairdresser for 22 years. I was lucky enough to grow up in the company of Tom Daniels, a cousin of mine. You wrote about him in your American Salon column in January and February 2003. I'm writing to let you know that he passed away and was buried today. He was such a wonderful person who loved cutting hair, and we always had that connection. Thank you for writing about Tommy—it meant a lot to me and his family.
Sincerely, Nancy Kuala

E-mails don't usually make me cry, but this one hit me hard. I started thinking about how we only get one shot at life—one chance to live with passion and share whatever gifts we have been given with others. This man truly did that. I'm sure like so many others, he sacrificed things to pursue his dream. He was a husband, a father and a grandfather, and was still in love with hair. His love affair began when he was 14 and continued until he was 93.

 Tommy with a longtime client, in 2003.
Tommy with a longtime client, in 2003.

I first talked to Tommy on the phone. I had just written my debut column for this magazine about a man who had been in the salon industry for 35 years and was still passionate about the business. When the voice on the other end of the line told me he had been doing hair for almost 80 years, I was in disbelief. Long story short, I met and interviewed Tommy a year later.

My heart hurt a little as I watched him walk with his cane, inch by inch, through the lobby and into the elevator. Once we settled in, he talked about his passion for our craft. His wife Anne said she was amazed at how Tommy started his day—hardly moving at all until he began working. Then it was as if someone had waved a magic wand and transformed him. "I feel 17 when I'm cutting hair," said Tommy. "I think of hair as better than diamonds; better than any expensive jewelry." What a beautiful thing to say about what we do.

I will never forget Tommy Daniels and how lucky I was to have met him. When I'm feeling tired, I will think of Tommy and how working revived him. When clients start to drive me crazy, I'll smile remembering Tommy's "no-talk policy," which never seemed to affect his steady stream of customers. And when I start to lose my drive, I will remember his undying passion for the industry. If he can stay excited and motivated for 80 years, so can I!

E-mail Ruth at [email protected]. To find out more about RARE education with Ruth Roche, visit, or call (866) RARE-NYC.