La Crosse man repays kindness with a kite

Greg Remen, an Onalaska, Wis., native, was once homeless. Then the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration took him in and found him housing through Catholic Charities and Couleecap Inc.

How do you repay that? With a kite, the La Crosse Tribune reports.

Remen loves kites so he makes them out of newspapers.

“Every time a sister gets in the paper, they get a kite, because they do so much for the community, and they’ve done so much for me,” he said. “I don’t know where I’d be without them. The sisters and Couleecap get free kites for life.”

If you make the La Crosse Tribune, Remen gives you a kite. Otherwise, it’s $2.

“He came in carrying a kite, and I thought, ‘What’s this guy trying to sell me?’” said Jamie Hanson, Ken’s new owner, who retained the name of the one-chair shop in honor of the late Ken Garves when he bought it last month.

Remen had fashioned the kite out of a June 19 Sunday Tribune business page that featured a story about Hanson taking over and recounted Garves’ history, included a photo of Garves cutting a customer’s hair and another picture of Hanson at his new post.

Garves, who died Jan. 16 at age 87, had bought the shop in 1976 and cut thousands of heads of hair until failing health forced him to hang up his clippers in December after nearly 70 years behind a chair. Hanson keeps alive a tradition that has seen a barber shop at that location since at least 1890, except from about 1901 to 1913 when it was a harness maker and saddlery shop, according to Bobbi Garves, Ken’s daughter-in-law.

“How cool is that?” Hanson said Tuesday of the kite, now ensconced on the shop’s wall under another account of Garves’ reign.

Remen was a Merchant Marine, working barges on the Mississippi River for 15 years until he became disabled, and then became homeless.

“That’s how I got into this,” he explained with a smile. “When you’re on the street, you need a gig. I tried music, but it probably was more like noise pollution.”