By Roger Smith
Just three years after retiring from the barber shop that still bears his name, Ernesto Falbo passed away in May at the age of 78 after a battle with cancer.
Mayor Jim Watson was among the many clients and friends who paid tribute, remembering Saturday mornings when he lined up for a trim at the popular barber shop where Ernesto cut hair for 48 years.
“It was like the hot-stove league,” he said during Ernesto’s online funeral. “Everyone gathered there and swapped stories and told tall tales.”
Senator Jim Munson recalls his own many visits to Ernesto’s and taking his sons there for haircuts after he moved back to Ottawa and into the Glebe in 1995 after postings in London, Beijing and Halifax as a reporter at CTV.
“Ernie was a very kind man, he was so generous with his time,” Munson tweeted. “I always enjoyed getting a haircut because with Ernesto, it became an occasion, a moment to share stories, to laugh and learn about life. We will miss him.”
Ernesto emigrated from Calabria in Italy in 1967. Three years later, he bought the Martella Barber Shop at 887 Bank Street and renamed it. He sold the business in 2013 but stayed on to run it. By the time he retired in 2018, Ernesto guessed that he’d given more than 100,000 haircuts. On his last day of work, a parade of customers came by with gifts and greetings to thank him for his long service and friendship.
“I lost one of my best friends,” said Geurino (Garry)Turano, who cut hair alongside Ernesto for more than 20 years. “We never had a big argument, never, never.”
Garry and Ernesto grew up in the same village, Celico, and both left for Canada the same year. After going first to Toronto, Garry eventually moved to Ottawa to take a job with his childhood friend. They lived in the same neighbourhood and were good pals outside work.
“We spent a lot of time together. Meals, picnics. We have all lost a good friend, we have lost a good guy.”
While the Glebe remembers the barber, his family mourns a husband, father and grandfather who loved to putter in his vegetable garden, grow figs in his greenhouse, make huge batches of tomato sauce every September and host the family for Sunday lunches.
“He was the most kind-hearted, giving person,” said his daughter Marisa Pires in her eulogy at his funeral. “Those who knew him loved him. And we knew we were loved and appreciated and always protected.”
Predeceased by his first wife in 1992, Ernesto leaves his second wife Iolande, three children, three stepchildren, eight grandchildren, two brothers and three sisters. His family knows how that barber shop in the Glebe provided for them and how important it was to Ernesto. “He worked very hard,” said Marisa, “and he loved his job.”
Roger Smith is copy editor of the Glebe Report and got many haircuts from Ernesto.