Ralph Mitchell (seated) is preparing to reveal his face to the world for the first time in so long, he can’t quite remember when he was last clean shaven. The Grand Falls-Windsor man plans to trim his beard to support a local schoolteacher facing an expensive medical procedure. Also pictured is his son, Shane, testing out some possible shaving equipment.
Randy Edison photo
It is a gesture of paying it forward that’s far from ordinary, but Grand Falls-Windsor’s Ralph Mitchell is about to part with his beloved beard to return a favour.
To be accurate, Mitchell won’t be directly returning a favour, but he does have a connection of sorts to the beneficiary of his kindness.
Wendy King, 39, is married and has a seven-year-old son. She started feeling shortness of breath in fall 2010, and, less than a year later, was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH).
PH is a disease characterized by an abnormal blood pressure in the lungs. The pulmonary arteries become narrowed and can be scarred to the point of being closed.
On March 29, King has to be in Toronto to begin assessment for a double-lung transplant, which could see her living away from home for an extended time.
Mitchell has faced some medical challenges of his own of late and actually credits Dr. Amy King, Wendy’s sister-in-law, with helping him regain his health.
“If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be here,” Mitchell said of the doctor’s part in unlocking the mystery of some blood issues he faced for years. While he is still monitored for iron levels and blot clots, his health concerns have lessened.
Last week, he watched a TV interview with Wendy King and decided he’d like to help the cause.
That’s when the beard-shaving idea came to mind.
Mitchell trims the graying facial hair each spring and thought the next grooming might as well bring some financial benefit.
The full details around the shaving haven’t yet been determined. The family has contacted the group heading fundraising efforts, as well as the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts about the possibility of creating a high-profile trimming at an upcoming game. Details will be revealed as they are finalized.
The beard is kind of a calling card for Mitchell and he’s been called many names in reference to the grey beard – Captain Crunch and Captain Highliner are regulars. He’s also often called on as a standby for St. Nick.
Because of that notoriety, Mitchell’s decision has created some chatter on Facebook and among family.
“One of his cousins said he hasn’t seen Ralph’s face in 26 years,” said daughter-in-law Carolyn. “I’ve never seen his face in the years I’ve been around.”
Some people are very reluctant to eliminate something that is a big part of their character, but Mitchell’s resolve is solid.
“I don’t care about the beard. That’ll grow back, but I’m not going bald,” he said in reference to other fundraisers which have people shaving their heads