In Retirement, Hairdresser Finds Her Place of Service
Updated: May 31
By Victoria Swearingen
MTSU Seignenthaler News Service
Addie Shuford is a talker.
“If I’m around people and I can talk, I’ll be alright,” said Shuford, 74, who spends several days a week at the Franklin County Senior Citizens Center where she works in the center’s Thrift Store.
Shuford stands at about five feet high in sneakers and offers a bright smile to everyone. Her short blond hair curves across her forehead in a swoop, while dangling from her ears are hooped earrings accented by a turquoise stone in each. On both wrists are bracelets of colorful beads, same for the necklace around her neck.
Every time she’s in the public her hair is always perfectly styled, which is understandable knowing she’s spent most of her adult life as a hairdresser.
Shuford has moved between West Tennessee, North Carolina and Franklin County in the last two decades. She now lives with her youngest son and daughter-in-law in Winchester. Her life, she said, hasn’t been easy but she did whatever it took to provide for her children.
As she told her story Shuford leaned back in an office chair. It was a slow day at the Thrift Store. Circumstances, she said, found her raising her three children alone while working in a factory. The family of four moved from Franklin County to central North Carolina where she worked at a light fixture factory for several years. That job was followed by work at a textile mill for over 12 years while her children finished high school. For the following seven years, Shuford held a management position at Dollar General.
“You don’t have to work hard, just work sensible, to make the ends meet,” Shuford chuckled. “That’s what I’ve always done.” Shuford later remarried and was encouraged to change career paths by her second husband.
That’s how she came to be hair stylist, a job that took her into retirement. Making others look their best for all occasions became her passion.
Shuford became a hairdresser in 2002 at the age of 54. For more than a decade she worked her magic on other people’s hair in different environments, from city salons to nursing homes. She took pride in helping the older women who could no longer style their hair.
In 2005, Shuford began working out of Life Care Center of Tullahoma doing hair for the residents, as well as anyone who wanted to come to the nursing home to get their hair or nails done. Not surprising, Shuford’s favorite part of the job was talking with her clients.
“They can tell you some things that you have never heard of, they would line up in their wheel chairs outside my door for me to do their hair, or just to come talk,” Shuford said.
“They loved talking, they would have gotten their hair done everyday if I could’ve got to them.”
But some of her most meaningful time as a hair stylist came from those who didn’t say a word to her.
Through a friend and fellow hairdresser, Cathy Segmin, Shuford was introduced to making the dead look their very best. Many funeral homes don’t have an in-house hairstylist, she said, so there’s a need for someone with expertise to provide that service.
Shuford, however, wasn’t convinced she could do the job. “I’m not sure I could do that,” she told her friend.
But Segmin persisted, convinced that Shuford had the heart for helping others. Shuford tagged along with her friend on the next couple of calls.
After a few months, Shuford started taking on jobs at the funeral home alone. “I enjoy doing hair and if it helps anyone I’ll do it,” she said.
Families of long-time salon clients requested her services.
“I did hair in the nursing home and if someone passes, then naturally I would want to do their hair because I knew how to do it.”
Shuford said styling the hair of someone lying in a coffin makes her think about her own mortality and serves as a reminder to live life to the fullest.
“Even going to a funeral makes you think about what’s going to happen.” Shuford added.
Unfortunately, the twin punch of the covid pandemic and pain caused by years of standing all day cutting hair has mostly ended her styling days. She had a good run, Shuford said.
“Right now, I’m not doing any hair, except if someone comes to my house or I go to the funeral home,” she stated. “If I have a friend who wants their hair cut, I’ll cut it.”
And together, they’ll talk as Shuford snips.
Victoria Swearingen is one of nine Middle Tennessee State University journalism students who recently spent two and a half weeks in Franklin County writing stories for the Herald Chronicle. More of their work can be found at www.theroadtripclass.com.