Locks of love teaches West Bath boy life lesson

Posted April 26, 2013, at 5:12 p.m.
Last modified April 27, 2013, at 10:54 a.m.

BATH, Maine — On Friday afternoon, 12-year-old Josh Demers held up his newly-shorn blond curls and announced, “I can feel the wind already.”

Demers, of West Bath, then addressed an envelope to mail the curls to Locks of Love, a program that provides wigs to children with cancer. He included a card noting, “In memory of Angela M. Black.”

Angela Black of Bath was a longtime friend of Demers’ father, Mike. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and wasn’t expected to live long, according to Mike Demers. But she held on five more years, until last fall. She wore wigs throughout several rounds of chemotherapy.

On Friday, Black’s son, Matt Holcombe, his girlfriend, Kayleigh Fortin, their infant Emma and several of Angela Black’s friends crowded into Textured Hair Designs to watch Demers get a haircut.

“She’d be crying right now,” Black’s best friend, Angela Avery, said, not quite breaking into tears. “She’d be all over that boy saying how proud she was. Then she’d take him out and spoil him.”

Josh Demers only met Angela Black a few times, but his father had known her since they were 13, and attended Morse High School with her.

When he heard his dad talking about her one day, he started asking questions.

“I heard them talking about how she was sick, and they said cancer,” Josh Demers said Friday. “I said, ‘What does that do to you?’ and they said, ‘You lose your hair.’”

“His big concern was that she was a girl and wasn’t going to have her hair,” Mike Demers said. “He wanted to know how to make a wig. Then he said, ‘I’ll do that.’”

Mike Demers spoke to Black, and the three developed a plan: When Josh’s hair was long enough, Black would take him to get his hair cut. They called it their “date,” Mike Demers said.

But Black died last fall, too soon for Josh to help make her a wig. But he kept growing his thick, blond locks, knowing they would help create a wig for someone else.

Growing it out, Josh said, was a challenge. “It gets rats nests, and you have to brush it, like, three times a week,” he said. His dad insists it was more often.

But he might grow it again, after a short break for the summer. Long hair, he said, gets caught in swimming goggles.

Holcombe, his girlfriend, Kayleigh Fortin, and about 140 members of “Team Angela” walked last year in the Dempsey Challenge in honor of Angela Black’s 40th birthday — which she never quite reached. They raised $40,000, Matt said, “shattering” the team record for the challenge. So far this year, the team already has about 57 people signed up to walk.

On Friday, Holcombe watched Josh shake his hair out, and told the boy that if he grows his hair again, Holcombe might join him.

“That’s dedication,” Holcombe said. “More and more people are doing this and it brings awareness to the cause. You can’t ask anything more than that.”


A previous version of this story incorrectly named Matt Holcombe as Matt Black.