A man in Clarenville shaved his beard Sunday for the first time in nearly 40 years after raising $51,000 for ALS.
Ralph “Boonie” Lethbridge is a staple of the Clarenville area, best known for selling Christmas trees. He’s been growing his facial hair since he was around 16, but decided this year to hack it off after his close friend, Larry Boyd, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
“God love him, I’m trying to help him and that was me goal,” said Lethbridge.
The big shave happened on Sunday in the middle of a packed arena during a senior hockey game intermission.
In front of a cheering crowd, Lethbridge said he was pretty excited to be clean shaven for the first time in decades.
“I’m going to look beautiful with two blue eyes and two front teeth, happiest man in the world,” he told CBC before the razor came out.
Boonie's wife, Virginia, had the honour of getting the first cut.
“I’m so happy. I’m proud of him,” she said.
“I never said that before, but today I’m really proud of him because he went into it big time.”
Ralph “Boonie” Lethbridge is seen clean shaven for the first time in nearly four decades. [Chris Ensing/CBC]
Massive outpouring of support
Lethbridge originally set his goal at $5,000, but soon knocked that benchmark out of the park.
“Only for the community and people outside, I would never have made it,” he said.
“I said I’ll stay out of the woods and I’ll go for two weeks and pooch every bit of energy I have in my body to make money for them, and damn it, it paid off.”
People from all over Newfoundland and Labrador, and even from the rest of North America sent in donations. Lethbridge's wife said she couldn’t believe the support.
“People that I don’t even know have approached me. People have given me donations in the stores,” she said.
“People just want to help out. It’s amazing. You don’t know how many friends you’ve got before you start something like this.”
When the $51,000 cheque was presented, the crowd went wild.
Cal Cole of the local ALS Society NL group said this is the most exciting day the organization has ever seen.
“Every time I think about it gives me the cold shivers,” he said.
“As an organization, ALS Newfoundland, like every other organization, we’re in darn need of money. We provide our clients with wheelchairs, hospital beds, assisted breathing apparatuses. Whatever they need really, we give it to them.”
Lethbridge said his wife will likely feel the happiest about the shave.
“She’s happy she’s finally got a new man, ha, like you would,” he said.
As for how life will be post-beard, Virginia said her husband will have a harder time adjusting than she will. But don’t worry, she said, he’s growing it back.
“It’s going to be different because I haven’t seen him for years,” she said.
“And he’s going to be growing it back again. I can’t see him getting up every morning and shaving and having it clean. And he loves the outdoor life. And the beard, it’s warm. It’s warm on his face. I think he’ll be having the worst time adjusting.”
But after 50 years of marriage, she said, “he will still be Boonie.”