Thomas Joseph Lopresti, a longtime Towson barber and volunteer at Our Daily Bread, died April 12 of leukemia at Mercy Medical Center. The Timonium resident was 72.
He was raised in East Baltimore, the son of Italian immigrants Carmello and Innocenta Lopresti. He attended Baltimore City College, and took a few courses in barbering but basically learned the trade from his father, who owned a shop in Greektown. Except for a stint in the Coast Guard, he worked as a barber nearly all of his life.
"He started working for his father when he was about 9 and never really stopped," said Donald Burke of Lutherville, a lifelong friend. "He would shine shoes, sweep floors and kept the shop clean. When the rest of us would go out to play ball, Tommy went to work. He kept that old shoe shine kit at the Towson shop as a reminder of those early days."
Barbering was an ideal vocation for a man who was such a good listener, Mr. Burke said.
"He had a remarkable way of getting people to talk to him," he said.
Father and son moved the business to Dulaney Plaza in Towson, soon after that shopping center opened in 1960, and Lopresti's Haircutting and Styling is today its longest operating tenants, said Lawrence Taubman, the center's owner.
"Tom is the last of our original tenants, and he was a great one," Mr. Taubman said. "His was always a friendly face for everyone he met."
The business counts generations of the same families among its customers, Mr. Burke said.
"Tommy had a great devotion to his family and to his business and it spilled over to his customers and employees," he said. "He often went to the hospital or the home of someone who was ill and cut their hair. He would never take a dime for that."
Several employees have worked at the shop for decades and hope to keep the business open.
"Tom was a great boss, loyal to all of us and nice to all his customers," said Larry Panicho, a barber at the business for 35 years. "Even at the end of his life, he still came in and worked with great vitality."
Mr. Lopresti was as devoted to Our Daily Bread, a downtown ministry to the needy. He worked there the first Sunday of every month, delivering lunch and serving its patrons.
"Nothing would stop him from volunteering there," said his wife of 10 years, Deborah Krieg Lopresti. "He never missed, because he knew they were counting on him. Even in a blizzard, when he was undergoing cancer treatments, he'd still go there. He burned out the clutch in his truck getting over snow drifts."
The couple met at a dance in Westminster, which Mr. Lopresti said he attended because he wanted to meet a country girl, she said.
"It was a ladies' choice number," she said. "I asked him and we have been together ever since."
His favorite car was a 1985 bright yellow Dodge convertible that the family called "the banana." He loved riding to his shore home in Middle River with a carload of people and the top down.
A memorial Mass was offered Monday at Immaculate Conception Church in Towson, where he was a member for many years.
In addition to his wife, survivors include his niece, Jean Kapsambelis of Timonium, whom he raised as his own daughter; stepchildren Jeff Bessling of Timonium and Sherry Elska of Howard County; a sister, Carol Kapsambelis of Timonium; and two step-grandchildren.