- October 16, 2021
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BEMIDJI — If you sat in his barber chair or ran into him anywhere else, chances are Ted LaFriniere put a smile on your face and a laugh in your belly.
That’s how friends are remembering the 60-year-old Bemidji man, known by many as "Teddy the barber," who died Oct. 9 after suffering from COVID-19 for seven months. Survivors include his wife, Janeen, and two daughters, Rachel and Andrea. His funeral will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 18, at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bemidji.
LaFriniere owned Headquarters Barbershop at 216 Minnesota Ave. NW in downtown Bemidji. He also was a skilled carpenter known for building cabinets and helping friends with home projects.
“He was so witty and quick,” said longtime friend Kevin Barsness. “It didn’t matter if he’d known you for 30 years or you just walked in the shop for the first time. If he saw something that caught his eye, he was so fast. People were taken aback by it. It wasn’t malicious at all, but he loved to get reactions from people.”
Barsness certainly got a reaction when he was helping LaFriniere build a home a while back.
“He was a good carpenter,” Barsness said. “I was kind of the handyman helping him out. Teddy joked that we should start building spec houses. I said, ‘You think so?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I think we could probably build a pretty good $120,000 spec house for about $160,000.’ My word, we had so much fun.”
Another time, they were putting up crown molding in Barness’ basement, and the corner cuts were off, resulting in some wasted lumber. Barness complained, saying, “Teddy, you’ve got to knock it off. This stuff is like $10 a foot. He looks at me and says, ‘Yeah I know, but it’s not my house.’”
Everette Johnson, a second cousin to LaFriniere, was a fellow member of the Jaycees and has been a customer of Headquarters for more than 40 years.
“My boys and I always enjoyed going to see Ted at the barbershop,” Johnson said. “Except one time — my youngest son’s first haircut. There’s Ted with his big hand firmly gripping Buddy’s head as he cried. Ted felt sorry for him. Several years later, Ted let Buddy get a spike Mohawk when we were out of town.”
Paul Daman met LaFriniere about 40 years ago at Bemidji Town and Country Club. LaFriniere was recruiting young golfers for a junior tournament put on by the Bemidji Jaycees. Daman was 14, six years younger than LaFriniere.
“I was a kid standing on the practice green and he walked over and struck up a conversation with me,” Daman said. “Even as a 14-year-old kid, I can remember thinking this is a really nice guy. And when you’re 14 not everybody in your world is nice. From that day on, even as a young kid, we played a lot of golf together. It was kind of like an older brother/younger brother type of friendship. When older guys include you, that’s a big deal.”
Daman created a GoFundMe page for LaFriniere earlier this year to raise funds to help with medical expenses. As of Friday, Oct. 15, more than $28,000 had been donated.
According to the GoFundMe page, "Ted had been receiving chemo treatments over the last 18 months to fight off a form of lymphoma. At the very end of his treatment cycle, when his body's immune system had nothing left, Ted contracted COVID-19. He is hurting physically and needs the support of his friends and customers who have relied on him over the many years he has been in business downtown."
“It just amazed me the number and the diversity of the people he touched in our community who really thought the world of him,” Daman said. “One of the things I respect the most about him is that he was as dedicated to his wife and family in a good, clean, wholesome way as any friend I have. He just adored his family.”
Daman said although he watched his friend’s health deteriorate over the past year, he’ll remember LaFriniere as a cherished friend with an incomparably sharp sense of humor.
“I have never laughed with anybody like I laughed with Teddy,” Daman said. “And there aren’t a lot of people that can make me laugh. But I literally would laugh until I couldn’t stop laughing. He liked to rip people in a good, clean, fun way, but I just thought he always read the room really well. He had the kind of humor that matched whoever was around him. Whether it was a 10-year-old kid in his barber chair or a 40-year-old mother or a 50-year-old friend, Ted always read the room, and he always had the right kind of joke for that person.”
Daman added these words on LaFriniere’s funeral home tribute page: “Losing Teddy is beyond words. Everyone has a special memory of time spent with Ted. The golf course, the pool hall, or a woodworking project. He endeared himself to us in so many ways.”