By ANGIE HAFLICH
Not many people can say they have done anything as long as Betty Finuf has done hair. Last Monday, the 91-year-old Garden City resident received a surprise in the mail — a certificate of recognition from the Kansas Board of Cosmetology, acknowledging the 72 years she has been a licensed cosmetologist.
"I just don't think I've seen mom so excited or tickled about anything for a long time, besides coming to work," said Finuf's daughter, Retta Underwood.
Along with the certificate, the board sent Finuf the original application to cosmetology school that she filled out in 1941.
"I was surprised and I was so pleased," Finuf said.
The letter accompanying the certificate and application said, in part, "72 years of service is quite an accomplishment and the board feels it is necessary to recognize this wonderful achievement."
After receiving her license at the age of 19, Finuf, who is originally from Wichita, hopped on a bus to Garden City.
"I lived in Wichita all my life and I was in awe when I got on that bus to come out here by myself and the further I went, I just knew we couldn't go any further west and be where I would be happy about it," she said, laughing. "When I got here, the bus station was at the Baird Hotel, and across the street was my shop. I picked up my suitcase and walked over cross the street."
The owners of Venus Academy had placed her in a job at the shop.
Shortly after moving here, Finuf met her first husband, Loran Underwood. The couple had two children, daughter Retta, and son, Larry Underwood, who died in 1994.
"Mom always told me she came out here because she had a job and she was going to save her money and go to New York and be a stylist," Underwood said.
Getting married and having kids changed those plans.
"I had dreams that someday I would make enough money to go to New York, but I married," Finuf said, laughing.
Aside from living in Louisiana and Arkansas while her husband was in the service, Finuf has lived in Garden City ever since. After 34 years of marriage, Underwood died in 1975. In 1976, Finuf married Harrison (Harry) Finuf, whom she was married to for 18 years, until his death in 1994.
After working at that first shop on Main Street, Finuf went to work at two other local hair salons, prior to opening her own shop called Charm and Glo, in 1977.
"I bought the trailer on Washington Street and my customers came just like they were in the best shop in town," she said.
After unsuccessfully attempting to move the mobile home closer to the Finuf home on Evans Street, she heard about a home that came complete with a hair salon attached to it.
Finuf said she had a hard time talking her husband into moving because he had put a lot of time and effort into their home on Evans, but she eventually prevailed and the couple moved into the home at 1614 Jan St. in 1981, where she has run Charm Glo ever since.
Despite having undergone triple bypass surgery six years ago, Finuf began working part-time just six months after the surgery.
"After my last surgery I had to slow down an awful lot," Finuf said. "I was happy when I could walk down that one step into this shop. I told my customers, as long as I can get down that step, I'll probably be here, because I can stand all day."
Finuf's great-great-granddaughter, seven-year-old Shayla Clark said she thinks it's cool that her great-great-grandmother still does hair and that she will probably follow in her footsteps.
With the conversations that inevitably take place in hair salons, Finuf said that she always got an earful of gossip but that she also learned the art of listening.
"They say we're good psychiatrists," she said laughing.
Finuf enjoys watching "Days of Our Lives," and if she ever misses a show, she has a friend who keeps her updated.
"At one time, I did a lot of crocheting and I like to embroidery," she said. "And especially I have ladies that I cut their hair — I like that especially."
Finuf, who will be turning 92 on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day, as she puts it, does not intend to slow down any time soon.
"As long as I have customers, I'll do this," she said. "I still have this theory that if I'm going to have a business, I ought to be here."