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A trailblazer in the barber community is honored by former customers and colleagues

Lena Tally cut hair for Leon's barbershop for decades but was known for much more than cutting hair
Posted at 5:48 PM, Jan 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-05 17:48:13-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Leon's barbershop in the Martindale Brightwood community has been a staple for nearly 50 years.

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Inside the barbershop, photos line the walls, some from decades ago. Others are more recent family photos.

The two barbers are hard at work, their chairs a constant flow of customers.

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Customers both young and old, the chairs have seen their fair share of haircuts.

But between the two working men is an empty chair. One that has sat empty for more than a year now.

It's the chair that Miss Lena Tally cut hair at for decades, 50 years to be exact.

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For all those years, Tally worked tirelessly to cut hair.

Generations of family members graced her chair, and it's the wisdom she offered to her clients that people say they remember most.

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She started her career by defining the odds, known as a trailblazer for being the only woman in her barber graduating class in the 1970s.

She worked to provide a different persona to a male dominated work place.

"She always had her opinion," Leon Taylor said.

But her work went far beyond the barber chair.

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"A mother, a sister, she was that to all the kids in the neighborhood," Taylor said.

Taylor and Tally's relationship was something special. When Taylor started his barbershop, Tally was right by his side.

"She never held back with what she had to say and I loved her for that," Troy Watson, a former client said.

The two's friendship was something many admired, and it's something Taylor is proud of.

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"She left so many memories with us. We appreciate those memories," Taylor said.

Tally's clippers were put up for the final time back in September of 2022.

She passed away at the age of 82.

It's no secret she is missed inside Leon's barbershop.

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"There is something in the atmosphere that is missing in the shop," Taylor said.

But her compassion and the lasting relationships she provided to those who got to know her is everlasting.

Her death hasn't stopped the hope she brought to the Martindale Brightwood community.

Tally's former clients and colleagues are continuing her mission of good.

Her kindness stretched beyond the walls of the barbershop.

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Offering friendships that were more like family, encouragement, and advice to anyone who would take it.

"That's the type of person she was she'd give you the shirt off her back," Tally's former client Alfonzo Fowler said.

It's that lasting impact that her colleagues and former clients have decided they should continue.

"I'm just happy to know that somebody out there got blessed," Willie Williams who started the give back initiative said.

They decided to collect money so they could bless people in the Martindale Brightwood community.

Four families received a monetary gift just before the holidays.

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"Without them we wouldn't have had a Christmas toy at all," The Wells family said.

The gift has given people a chance to see a positive outlook on life, despite any struggle they might be going through.

"I want to keep striving there is still life out here. If she can do it, and she had passed away, and she is still bringing joy to people's faces like myself and my kids. I am like I have to keep going, I have to keep pushing," The Wells family said.

It's something those who knew her personally say they think she'd be proud of.

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"I think that Miss Tally would want people to continue to help others. That's what she's always done," Fowler said.

The barbershops goal is to continue to do the holiday giveaway every year.

Miss Tally was known as being one of the oldest women barbers in the city before her death.

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"I love her. I miss her. I wish I could've been with her when she passed because when she left, a part of everybody else left," Fowler said.