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In Memoriam

William Ray "Bill" Voss - Class Of 1961

William Ray "Bill" Voss, son of Donald W. (1909-2003) and Eva May (Pearl) (1916-2001) Voss, was born 23 January 1942 Michigan.  He graduated in 1961 from Okemos High School and married Jeanne Kay Simmons, OHS classmate, the same year.

Bill and Jeanne moved to Florida where Bill went to barber school and established a well known barber shop in Orlando, Orange County,  Florida.  Bill died of cancer 20 September 2003 Orange County and was interred Leek Cemetery, Okemos, Ingham County, Michigan.

The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Wednesday 24 September 2003


Bill Voss has been about as close as a person can get to many of Orlando's most powerful movers and shakers.

You name them: bankers, lawyers, judged, council members and even mayors.  They all sat in his chair at one time or another.

The retired barber's quick wit and easy-going demeanor played a role in attracting downtown professionals, but his shop's close proximity to the courthouse didn't hurt business, either.

Voss, who owned Orlando's Main Barber and Styling Shop for more than three decades died Saturday of cancer.  He was 61.

His list of clientele included retired federal Judge George C. Young, retired Circuit Judge Claude Edwards, then Minnesota Twins owner Calvin Griffith and just about half the team, said Ralph Smith, who worked with Voss beginning in the early 1980's.

"You'd sit in that chair and see everyone who was anyone come and go," said former customer Pete Peterson.  "He was always laughing and always telling jokes and stories."

One of the funniest stories Smith remembers was an on going joke between Voss and Young, who was nearly bald.

"The judge would kid Bill about paying the money," Smith said.  "And Bill would say, 'I'm not charging for the haircut, I'm charging you a finder's fee.'"

All the customers could get a professional cut and a hot shave at a reasonable price, but the regulars got a bonus.

Among the tools of his trade, Voss kept a mini bar of vodka, bourbon, scotch, rum and chasers.

"You name it, and if he didn't have it, it would be there the next time," said Peterson, of Orlando.  "Bill always said he liked them to go away with a smile on their face."

In later years, when Peterson would bring his grandchildren in with him, Voss made sure they left happy, as well.

"They always talked about how Barber Bill would make them popcorn when he cut Pa-Pa Pete's hair," Peterson said.  "They'd leave with their popcorn and I'd have my shot of vodka.  It was a tradition, and I'm sure he did it for more people than me.

Peterson, a retired Air Force colonel and bank officer, was a regular at Voss' Orange Avenue shop beginning in the early 1970's.

He was introduced to the downtown fixture by his bank's president and remained a loyal customer until Voss closed the business in 2001.

"When you came in his shop, you got at least five jokes or funny stories and he was always asking about you," Peterson said.  "I never heard him complain about one thing as long as I knew him."

Another thing Voss was knwon for was his home visits.

If a customer was sick or in the hospital, he'd pack up his tools and go to him.

"He was like the old-time doctors," Peterson said.  "He never charged extra and, if they couldn't afford to pay, he'd do it for free."

Voss, who was born in Okemos, Mich., moved to Orlando in 1958 to go to barber college. (Note: this is a wrong year as Bill graduated in 1961 from OHS.)

His first job out of school was at Orlando's Main Barber and styling shop.  He bought the business in the late 1960's."It was the last of the real barbershops," said Smith, 78.  "It was a man's barber shop, plain and simple."

Voss was forced to move the business in 1993 to make room for the new courthouse, so he and Smith set up shop at the corner of North Orange Avenue and Colonial Drive.

They were in the new location for about seven years before they closed because of Voss' cancer, Smith said.

"It was time," Smith said.  "He was sick and I was having heart trouble, so we closed."

Voss retired to a mobile home park in Oviedo and lived a quiet life until his death.

He is survived by daughter Teresa Wright, of Winter Park; son, William Voss Jr., of Winter Park; two brothers, George D. Voss, Lansing, Mich., and Larry Voss, Traverse City, Mich.; and two granddaughters.

No service is planned for Voss, who will be buried in a family cemetery plot in Okemos.  Orlando Direct Cremation Service is handling arrangements.