By Anne Geggis
Sit in Mark Francois’ chair at the Supremes Barber Lounge on Sample Road, and you were sure to get up with the look you wanted — and a friend for life.
More than 200 people gathered around his chair one final time Saturday to remember the man who had not only talent with the shears and scissors but also a gift of gab that never failed to strike an upbeat tone. After more than a dozen years cutting hair in Coral Springs, he died unexpectedly at the age of 39 early last week.
“He touched everyone whether you cleaned bathrooms or if you were on the commission,” said Shane Arnold, 38, who had known Francois since they were both young teenagers, going to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Saturday, though, his friends and family were left to contemplate why the 2000 MSD graduate now living in North Lauderdale, died suddenly, leaving behind three children, ages 15, 10 and 3, along with a thriving business at 9762 W. Sample Road, where the floors had recently been redone.
The Broward County Medical Examiner has ruled Francois’ death a suicide.
“He was a cool guy, friend, upbeat, very positive,” said Karen Bernard, whose business, ChicElle Salon, had been next-door neighbors to Francois’ business for five years.
“He would come in just to say ‘hi,’” Bernard said, shaking her head. “I don’t know this side of him.”
A notice showed that the barbershop had been professionally decontaminated May 28 in anticipation of reopening after the shutdown that left barbers and hairstylists throughout the state idle for about eight weeks.
Hunter Pollack, 22, estimated that Francois, who he called “Money Mark,” had done his hair almost 1,000 times, just about every week since he was 10. The first time he went in, Pollack said he just happened to stop in because he needed a cut, and his dad lived around the corner from this barber’s chair. And he never stopped coming in to get a trim and a good talk.
“He stood by my side during the difficult times,” Pollack said, recalling when his sister, Meadow, was killed in the Parkland school shooting.
Francois’ last advice to Pollack— the same call on June 6 when they made plans to get together three days later — is still ringing in his ears.
“He told me not to downplay myself,” he said.
Mourners lit small candles and put them on the counter in front of Francois’ chair. The mirror in front of the chair had pictures of his three children taped in the corner. The candles formed a line next to a Clipper Caddy and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Someone also added bottles of cognac and vodka next to the line of tools Francois used in his trade.
Another longtime friend, “Shaka,” who had known Francois for the last 20 years, seemed overcome with emotion as he poured pink champagne onto the floor in front of Francois’ barber chair.
County Commissioner Michael Udine called himself Francois’ faithful customer, coming here once a week for the last six years. Francois cut his father’s hair too.
“He was a good guy,” Udine said. “A lot of kids looked up to him.”
Many wore T-shirts showing Francois riding on the hood of his beloved Lincoln Continental with the inscription, “Rest in Paradise King.”
Chaye Vaden of Margate and Jeanene Giordano of Tamarac, both 34, said they grew up with Francois. They recalled that before he became a barber, he had a cellphone fix-it stand at Coral Square mall.
“He was always hustling,” Vaden said. “He was a big family man.”
Lamar Williams said he had been friends with Francois since childhood: “He made everyone feel like he was your best friend.”
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- Anne Geggis has been a newspaper reporter for 30 years, most recently at the Sun Sentinel. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., with a double major in journalism and sociology.
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