Joseph ‘Joe’ Horbas
“Joe” Horbas Jr., “Joe The Barber,” passed gracefully into the Lord’s
care on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, at the age of 84.
Joe was born to Joseph and Barbara Horbas, May 12, 1929. As a young man
he was a gifted athlete and played a variety of sports. He was a valued
player on the Custer High School football team and excelled on the
gymnastics team. Early on, he developed a love of nature, especially
fishing, gardening and planting trees.
In 1950, when he met Dorothy, he found the love of his life; they
married six months later. Shortly after Joe and Dorothy married, he was
drafted into the U.S. Army and served proudly in Panama and Greenland
during the Korean War. Joe was honorably discharged from the Army in
When Joe returned home, he focused on his future and his family. He
worked for the Milwaukee Forestry Department as a tree trimmer before
attending Milwaukee Area Technical College, where he obtained his
diploma from the school of barbering and cosmetology.
Beginning in 1955, he worked at several multichair shops in Wauwatosa
and Milwaukee. In 1959, he set up a shop of his own, Colonial
Barbershop, located at 137 Green Bay Road in Thiensville; his business
was in this location for 51 years. In 2010, the building was sold and
the new owner wanted Joe’s space.
Joe thought perhaps this meant he should retire, but said, “This is what
I know, this is what I love.” His shop was a permanent hub for the
community’s men, and a few brave women too. In many instances, he
clipped three generations of family members. A listener, Joe developed
lasting relationships with a diverse variety of people. Without ever
leaving his shop, Joe saw the world through his clients’ stories. He
bore witness to his community’s history: births, marriages, divorces,
illnesses and deaths.
At the end of a long day, Joe could be seen carrying the brown leather
doctor’s bag his mother had given him, complete with clippers and
shears, making house calls for customers too ill to come into the shop.
With his easy manner and compassionate nature, Joe dispensed more than
just haircuts; he dispensed the wisdom he had acquired and he was
admired by many as a storyteller, philosopher and friend.
Not ready to hang up his shears, Joe accepted the offer to rent space
within the TL and Company Hair Salon, located just down the street from
his old shop. There, Joe continued to operate Colonial Barbershop and to
serve his customers. Joe will be remembered as a skilled craftsman. With
Dorothy at his side, he designed and built their dream home, personally
selecting field stone from a quarry. He learned to hand rub plaster
walls from a German mason, he honed beams for the ceiling by hand and he
repurposed an old oak dance hall floor, bringing it to new life.
Artistically inclined, he was a woodworker who could not only design and
build tables, quilt racks and butcher blocks, but often could be found
hand-carving wood into works of art or embellishing the furniture he
made with his carved designs. Whether it was drawing plans for his next
project, a landscape or people, he loved sketching.
Joe was the cherished husband of Dorothy for 63 years; the dearly loved
father of Gail (Ken) Hofmann, Debra Horbas, Curt (Christine) Horbas and
Lori Horbas (Steven Carini); he was the tender and loving grandfather to
Jennifer (Paul) Watts, Joseph Horbas, Paul (Kiriann) Carini, Margaux
Carini and Ashley (Tom) Fransee; and the affectionate great-grandfather
to Taeh and Joey Horbas, Lucia Carini and Devon Watts; and, the adoring
owner of Sophie, his beloved lapdog.
He is further survived by his sisters, Mary Ann (the late Manuel) Lang,
Theresa (Don) Otto and Barbara (the late Jim) Lalk; nieces, nephews and
He was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Barbara Horbas.
The family will receive friends at the Schmidt & Bartelt Funeral and
Cremation Service, 10280 N. Port Washington Road, Mequon, on Saturday,
Sept. 14, from 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., with the celebration of Joe’s life
beginning at 1 p.m.
Memorials to the family, or the charity of your choice, are appreciated.
Schmidt & Bartelt Funeral and Cremation Service in Mequon is assisting
the family. For online condolences, please visit