This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
When Domenic Parisi was 12 and had already spent six years apprenticed to a blacksmith in southern Sicily, he and his family were preparing to join his father, who had recently immigrated to Hackensack, N.J. Once there, Domenic was expected to help support his seven siblings.
Then came some unsettling news. His father, in his first letter home from America, lamented that his son’s training as a farrier was for naught.
“There are no horses in Hackensack,” he wrote. “Tell Domenic to become a barber.”
“So for next two years I learned how to be a barber,” Mr. Parisi told Northwest Bergen Lifestyle magazine last year.
He found work in the United States right away, and eventually, in 1970, he and Pietro Maugeri opened Domenic & Pietro’s Barber Studio on Maple Avenue in Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J. The shop emerged as a neighborhood institution and transformed Mr. Parisi into a local celebrity when he became Richard M. Nixon’s barber, cutting the former president’s hair twice a month for the last nine years of his life.
Mr. Parisi died on Oct. 2 at a Hackensack hospital. He was 76. His son Joseph said the cause was complications of the coronavirus.
Nixon became a steady customer around 1985, after he moved from California to New Jersey — first to Saddle River and then to Park Ridge.
Mr. Parisi slept fitfully the night before the former president’s first appointment. At 7:30 a.m., instead of a motorcade, a modest gold-colored sedan pulled up. The sole passenger was handed a $10 bill by the driver and got out of the car to have his hair cut.
In subsequent visits, Nixon would cheerfully sign autographs for other customers and passers-by. He and Mr. Parisi palavered about sports and family, but never about politics,
“Whenever I knew he was coming in, I would always make sure I read the paper to memorize what happened in last night’s Giants or Yankees game,” Mr. Parisi said.
“He was like everybody else,” Mr. Parisi told The Record of Bergen County, N.J., in 1995. “Of course, I knew him at a different time, when he was more relaxed.”
Domenic Parisi was born on Oct. 27, 1943, in Santa Croce Camerina, a small town near Ragusa, to Joseph and Rosaria (Caratello) Parisi.
He arrived in the United States in the mid-1950s and, already trained to cut hair, was hired by a local barber even though he was just 14. (“He said the inspector only comes in the mornings,” he recalled, “so I could start right away working after school.”)
He started full time at 16. When he was 20 he married Linda Patrucco. Along with his son Joseph, she survives him, as do two other children, Paul Parisi and Jennifer Poole; four grandchildren; and four siblings, Joseph, Tina, Virginia and Maryann. Another daughter, Rosa Parisi, died in 2000.
Mr. Parisi was working in another barber shop when Mr. Maugeri stopped by to apply for a job. They became fast friends and opened Domenic & Pietro’s. Mr. Maugeri died in 2004.
“I’ve been here almost 50 years and never had to work a day in my life because I love my job,” Mr. Parisi said last year. He worked until he became ill.
“People would ask him when he was going to retire,” said his son Joseph, who worked alongside his father in the barber shop since 1986. “He would say, ‘Maybe I’ll wait until Joseph retires and then we can retire together.’”
Joseph Parisi said this week that he still hopes to work there for another 10 years or so — though now, for the first time, he feels like he is on his own.