Aldo Enzo Ascareggi, former long time Cicero barber, dies at age 97
BY KATIE DREWS September 9, 2012 6:24PM
obit photo of Aldo Ascareggi
Updated: October 11, 2012 6:04AM
It wasn’t unusual for Aldo Enzo Ascareggi to give young ones their first haircut and many years later do the same not only for their kids but grandchildren, too.
Mr. Ascareggi clipped hair for 75 years at the same two-chair barbershop in Cicero where he found work as a teenager during the Great Depression.
In 1941, Mr. Ascareggi purchased the store, renaming it Aldo’s Barber Shop and continued on to serve generations of loyal customers until retiring in 2007. Over the years, regular clients included Al Capone’s brother, the late Ralph “Bottles” Capone, as well as the late Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, a controversial prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who once ran the Vatican bank.
“The barbershop was definitely a fun place to be,” said Mr. Ascareggi’s grandson, Phillip. “There would be people that would come into the shop even on days when they weren’t getting haircuts just to hang out and talk.”
On Aug. 21, Mr. Ascareggi died of pneumonia at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital. He was 97.
“He was something else, my dad,” said his son Norman, who worked side-by-side with Mr. Ascareggi for decades. “He was just a good guy. All of his customers loved him.”
Mr. Ascareggi, the oldest of three, was born June 18, 1915, in Italy and grew up in a small village between Florence and Pisa. After his parents left for America, Mr. Ascareggi stayed with his uncle and learned the barber’s trade as a young boy.
His parents returned to Italy and together the family moved to the U.S. in 1929. The family settled in Cicero.
Since he spoke no English and had little education, Mr. Ascareggi was placed in first grade at the age of 15. He completed all of grammar school in one year, despite getting reprimanded a few times for drinking wine during lunch, as Italians sometimes do.
While in school, Mr. Ascareggi would often give haircuts at home to teachers and neighbors. That’s when he had one of his first encounters with the mob.
“One of the gangsters said, ‘I need a haircut, I gotta meet some people,’ so he did it on the front porch of his house,” Norman Ascareggi said. “That night the wife called, ‘Did you see Tony?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I gave him a haircut and a shave.’ They found the guy dead the next morning.”
After attending barber’s college at age 16 and obtaining a barber’s license, Mr. Ascareggi started work at the barbershop on St. Patrick’s Day in 1932. An Irish factory worker playfully chided him for not wearing green and later brought him a green tie. From then on “every St. Patrick’s Day, out came the green tie,” his son said.
In those days Mr. Ascareggi worked long hours, Monday through Saturday. On Saturday nights many guys came in for a shave before they headed out for an evening of dancing and Mr. Ascareggi was quick with the straight razor.
“When you’re shaving somebody and there’s no safety and no guard, you have to have a pretty steady hand and he definitely had that,” said Phillip Ascareggi, who went into cosmetology. “He did some of the best haircuts on men I’ve ever seen. Phenomenal with clippers. He did a lot of flattops — it was level as level could be. He was just very, very talented.”
Behind the barber’s chair, Mr. Ascareggi was a big storyteller. “That’s all he ever did was tell stories,” his son said. Some were about his homeland, others about his encounters with the Mafia.
Once a gangster ran into his shop, threw a gun in a drawer and asked Mr. Ascareggi to cover him with a towel, apparently to hide him from a gunman. When it happened a second time, Mr. Ascareggi ran out the back door and yelled, “I’m not doing this anymore!”
Mr. Ascareggi would also scold the younger “wannabe gangsters” who would swear inside his shop. Sometimes they threw back threats but Mr. Ascareggi would call “the boss” and the boys would later apologize. “Nobody messed with my dad,” Norman Ascareggi said.
Mr. Ascareggi was an excellent pool player, having worked in his youth at a billiards hall. He and his wife, Rose, spent many nights playing card games at the Italian Sport Club. Mr. Ascareggi also had a poker club that met every other Friday from the 1940s into the 2000s.
Aside from his son and grandson, Mr. Ascareggi is survived by another son, James; another grandchild and four great-grandchildren.
Services have been held.