Apolinario “Paul” Lerma passed away November 25, 2021. He was born December 7, 1917 in Frisco, N.M., an isolated rural community in eastern New Mexico. He was the 6th of 10 children - five boys and five girls. Romola, Paul’s wife of 74 years, passed away in April. He is survived by his 6 children, Julie, Mark, Patty, Lisa, Norman and Bobby, 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Paul’s father, Roman, owned two small ranches, one in Lower Frisco, and one in Saliz Canyon about 12 miles apart. He often talked about hiking between the two, using a white donkey to carry gear and retrieve provisions from town. The family farmed, hunted, and fished to help feed the 10 children. Paul’s dad, Roman lived to age 64 and his mother, Adela lived to age 95. Two of Paul’s siblings survive.
Paul enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on Jan 7, 1942 in Ft. Bliss, Texas. He was working in a sawmill in McNary, Az. at the time. His service to his country was probably his most cherished memory. He loved wearing his WWII hat wherever he went. He liked to brag about the countries he’d visited while in the service. He would usually add, that ‘I shot lots of people in the war,’ then add with a wry smile, ‘cause I was a medic’. He was a good soldier, earning several decorations and citations. He completed his service as S/Sgt. He was a life-long member of the American Legion, earning a 50-year membership certificate. He continued his support with regular visits to the Legion ‘hole,’ for a quick shot of whiskey.
After the war, Paul enrolled in barber school. He graduated from Mohler Barber School in Los Angeles in August 1946, then worked as a barber in Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and Flagstaff, before settling in Holbrook, and barbered till August 2010. He gave the best flat-top and smoothest straight-razor shave in Arizona - apologies to barbers Roy, Pete, Stanley and Gilbert. Paul’s work ethic and success inspired at least 3 local young men to consider barbering as a vocation, which they did. He also gave several kids their very first job – in his barbershop, sweeping the floor, taking out the trash, going to the bank for change, shining shoes, and taking checks to pay bills. Working in the barbershop is remembered fondly by many of his young workers.
Paul attended daily Mass. He started and ended the day with prayer. He prayed a family rosary when kids were young, and later, whenever he could get them to cooperate. His Bibles at home and at work were well underlined and with bookmarks and notecards. He to the Knights of Columbus and took part in all their charitable events. He could be counted on to help with any church activities.
Paul served on the local school board for 18 years. He had the honor and pleasure to hand a diploma to his graduating son or daughter. He was very proud of this service to the community. As a school board member, he attended conferences all over the country, from Seattle to Miami Beach.
Paul was very generous. He fed hobos and gave money to hitchhikers. He tithed. He visited the sick. He loaned tools, car, or truck. If you said you liked something Paul had, you’d probably find it in the back of your car when you left. Every birthday card came with $5, or whatever he could spare, and an endearing message. If you needed a helping hand, call Paul. Anytime, anyplace, no questions, no strings attached - no thanks needed.
Paul was entrepreneurial. He bought a liquor store. He had a saw sharpening service, sold mail-order shoes, sold firewood, turned garages into studio apartments, bought and sold cars and trucks.
Paul was adventurous. He visited Disneyland the year it opened and the next year, drove his family to Mexico City in a brand-new car.
Paul lived a simple but elegant life. He leaves a trail of stories, smiles, and enduring sayings among his relatives and those friends who still survive. He will be surely, sorely missed.
Long-haired Saints in heaven are probably running for cover as word spreads that Paul the Barber has crossed the Pearly Gates.
Funeral services will be held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Holbrook on Friday, December 10, 2021 with Mass at 1:00 p.m. and will be preceded by rosary at 12:30. Paul’s WWII military service will be recognized and honored by the Patriot Riders Group before and after Paul’s service. Interment at Holbrook Cemetery.