Peggy Henry

In April of 1998, a then 27-year-old Peggy Henry answered an ad in the Oregonian for a part-time hair stylist at a new assisted living facility in Portland called Rose Schnitzer Manor.

“The first few residents of the May Apartments had moved in during January of that year,” said Peggy. “Flo [McWillis] hired me [Flo’s husband, Stan, was an accountant at Robison], and we were just waiting for the salon to be ready.

“The place filled up quickly, so it didn’t take long before we were both busy every day. My daughter was four-years-old at the time, and I wanted to be home for her, and my son, but nights and weekends are part of this profession. No nights and weekends are unheard of, and definitely a happy highlight for me.”

When Flo retired in 2016, Peggy became sole proprietor of the state-licensed salon that she named All About Me, offering hair and nail services to our residents, about 40 per week . . . or more, if needed! She recently began offering hair care at Robison on occasional Saturdays, too.

Resident Freda has lived at Rose Schnitzer long enough to have had her hair done by Flo. She loves sitting under the dryer, and receiving hair care weekly, as it’s relaxing, but wrinkles her nose at the hair spray that will hold her set for the next seven days.

“You look great, Freda!” she is told upon departure.

“I always look like that when she does my hair!” says Freda, with a smile.

“I love seniors,” said Peggy. “The residents have all become family. I consider myself half Jewish, even though I’m not any religion.

“Getting to know the residents is my favorite part, and now that I’ve been here so long, I’m meeting children of parents whose hair I did 20 years ago. There have been residents whose parents’ hair I styled when they lived here.

“My job takes a bit of caregiving and a bit of hairdressing.”

Peggy walks down the corridor to pick up Resident Gerry for her weekly appointment, and knocks on Gerry’s door.

“Do you want to bring your sweater, or leave it here?” Peggy asks. Gerry elects to wear her sweater.

I’m always excited to get my hair done,” said Gerry. “It’s so nice.”

Peggy guides Gerry back to the salon, chatting as she goes. “Gerry, we’re rounding the corner here to the salon. Don’t forget there’s a little lip there. I call that the speed bump when I’m pushing people in wheelchairs because it looks little, but it feels big when you’re going in a chair.”

“My job takes a bit of caregiving, and a bit of hairdressing.”

Many of the residents, like Freda and Gerry, receive shampoo sets, which is a wash and comb out, back to front. The technique is a fading art, notes Peggy, “but it’s not easy to do; shampoo sets take a lot of back combing with rollers.”

Because Rose Schnitzer Manor has a large number of residents, Peggy believes she is likely one of the busiest hair stylists in an assisted living community in Oregon.

“How’re you doing, Gerry? Does the water feel good?” asks Peggy.

Gerry concurs. A former antiques dealer who owned a business with her husband, John, she shares that her hair was very dark as a child; her classmates even asked the teacher if Gerry was a gypsy.

“I thought you might have been a brunette,” said Peggy. “Typically, people whose hair has more white than gray had very dark hair as children.”

Peggy can’t see over the evergreens out the windows now. But she remembers the campus’s 10-acre woods being low enough that she could look over the trees out to the streets and adjoining neighborhoods. She said goats roamed the woods to chew down the excess foliage; one day a goat ran right into the Rose Schnitzer Manor lobby. There was a soda fountain in the Manor, where the Stop N’ Shop now resides, where residents could order a “pop.” A shampoo set from Peggy and Flo was $10, and a tube of color was $3; prices have risen to $30 and $20 respectively.

Living at Rose Schnitzer Manor is a little like taking a cruise, observed Peggy. “Residents awake, go to an activity, and then a meal, and then another activity. And in the early days, residents dressed for dinner,” said Peggy, meaning they traded in their day clothes for evening wear.

“They had to be downstairs at a certain time dressed for dinner,” she said. “I couldn’t get anyone to take an appointment after 3 in the afternoon!”

Peggy was born in St. Helens, Oregon, and grew up in Milwaukie. She has two children, and three grandchildren, and watches her four-year-old granddaughter every Monday. She also attends as many of her grandson’s sporting events as possible.

Residents often give her advice: to save money, and travel as much as she can, and she is listening, though she intends to work for years to come.

“I’m not going anywhere,” said Peggy. “I am comfortable, have a routine, an love my job.”

Peggy would love a hair styling partner in the salon so she could take on the hair of residents’ families. “If you hear of anyone, let me know!” she said.

Resident Betty has arrived for her appointment. What does she think of Peggy’s hair care?

“She’s an incredible person,” said Betty. “All her clients love her.”

Agrees Renee: “You make a lot of people happy!”

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