Sherwood couple lives through thick and thin of hair donations
Paul and Karon Heineman have lived in Sherwood for nearly five decades, but since around 2000, his appearance has changed radically from year to year.
At a recent birthday party for an old friend, Paul, who was sporting a full head of curly white hair, didn't look out of the ordinary, but a year from now, he might draw a second glance because he won't get a haircut for another 16 months.
Paul isn't an aging hippie: For more than 15 years he has grown his hair for about 18 months, cut it off for Locks of Love and then starts the process all over again.
Locks of Love is a public, non-profit organization that provides hairpieces and wigs to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis, according to its website.
"I've always had thick curly hair," Paul said. "When it got long, I couldn't keep a hard hat on."
Paul also donated hair to the St. Baldrick's Foundation seven or eight years ago after a woman at their church was raising money for the not-for-profit organization that raises money to help find cures for children's cancer.
According to St. Baldrick's website, hair-shaving events have taken place in all 50 states plus 28 countries. Since 2000, there have been more than 4,000 head-shaving events resulting in nearly 200,000 shaved heads and raising more than $118 million for childhood cancer research.
"After I retired in 2000 I started to grow my hair before I ever heard about St. Baldrick's," Paul said. "I grow my beard every fall for hunting," and Karon added, "He looks like Santa."
According to Paul, Locks of Love takes gray hair and sells it to wig-makers. "With the money from the sales, they can buy wigs for young girls," he said.
Paul and Karon have come a long way since fate brought them together when they were growing up in the Midwest about 200 miles from each other. Karon was born in Webster County, Neb., on a farm, the oldest of eight children; and Paul was born in Iowa between Sioux City and Omaha, Neb., as the next-to-the-youngest in a family of eight children.
"He was the city slicker, and I was a farm girl," Karon said. "At the end of the eighth grade, his sister was living near us on a farm, and Paul spent the summer there. He and I met at a 'free show,' which consisted of painting the side of a building white and projecting a movie on it.
"Paul asked if I would sit with him if he bought me popcorn, and I did -- along with my seven brothers and sisters. Neither of us were old enough to drive so Paul and I wrote letters to each other until the next spring."
When they graduated from their respective high schools, Karon was valedictorian and featured in a story in the local paper.
"Paul's sister sent him the clipping, and he came by," Karon said.
Paul joined the Navy in September 1959, while Karon went to business school in Omaha and then got a job working for Western Union in Los Angeles. Paul was sent to boot camp and then radioman's school in San Diego, and they found themselves living so near and yet so far from each other.
"Paul couldn't get off the base during boot camp, so we wrote letters to each other until we could start dating the last two weeks he was there when he got Saturday off the base," Karon said. "When he was in radioman's school, he could get off the base. God's hand was in a lot of this."
They were married Jan. 23, 1960, with Karon saying, "He thought getting married was cheaper than paying the bus fare to see each other, and his salary went from $99 a month to $200."
Paul and Karon took a brief trip to the Midwest, and then they moved to Hawaii where Paul was stationed, living in an old converted barracks not far from Pearl Harbor.
While Paul was working in communications for the Navy, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion took place in April 1961, when three airplanes flown by Cubans bombed Cuban air bases. An invasion force of 1,500 CIA-sponsored Cuban rebels also landed at the Bay of Pigs and other sites, but Castro's forces repelled the invasion and took most of the invaders captive.
"People don't know how close we came to nuclear war," Paul said.
While the Heinemans were living in Hawaii, Karon's mother and dad, who worked in construction, moved to Newberg. Paul had a job lined up in Minnesota as a teletype repairman, but her folks wanted them to move closer to them.
The Heinemans moved to Newberg, living there for four years before moving to Sherwood in 1968, and Paul worked in construction, helping to build Newberg High School and George Fox University. Karon went to work part time at Attrell's Newberg Funeral Home as a secretary; she ended up staying for 43 years, always part time, became a funeral director apprentice and then a funeral director.
They both retired in 2000, but Karon remained "available" to work until retiring "for good" in 2013.
"I never would have chosen that for a career, but it was very rewarding," she said.
The Heinemans said one of the reasons they moved to Sherwood was to be close to St. Paul Lutheran Church, where they have made decades-long friendships.
The Heinemans have five children, 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren, and a third great-great-grandchild is due in July.