Lee Davis, 93, a longtime barber in Philadelphia, died Sunday, May 4, of a heart attack at a nursing facility in Pleasanton, Calif.
Mr. Davis had moved to the West Coast a decade ago to be near his son. In failing health, he died during a family party anticipating his 94th birthday on May 12.
"He held on until we got there," said daughter Geraldine Andrews-Savage.
The son of sharecroppers, Mr. Davis was raised in Augusta, Ga., during the Jim Crow era.
In June 1943, he was drafted into a segregated unit of the Army. While serving, he became a sharpshooter and learned to give haircuts to black soldiers.
After being honorably discharged at the rank of corporal, he moved to Philadelphia, where he began work as a barber.
Mr. Davis was an ambitious and hardworking man, his family said. In June 1946, he bought his first home in North Philadelphia, for himself and his mother, Viola.
He then met Costella Jones. They married in June 1949 and moved into their own home to start a family.
Mr. Davis worked at Container Corp. of America and cut hair on the side for other barbers.
But in 1960, he took a leap of faith and opened Lee's Barber Shop in West Oak Lane, a business he ran until selling it in 1998.
He also worked at a juvenile correction center as a barber and counselor; owned and managed real estate in Philadelphia and Glenside; and ran a blade-sharpening business and a vending machine firm.
Mr. Davis, a resident of Philadelphia and then Glenside, was a longtime member of Deliverance Evangelistic Church in North Philadelphia. He enjoyed traveling.
Though without a formal education, "he was one of the smartest men I've known," said his daughter. "He always encouraged his children to work hard and get a good education."
Surviving, in addition to his daughter and wife of 65 years, are son Timothy; daughter Beverly Wilson, and five grandchildren. A son died in 1998.
Funeral services were Wednesday in California.