The Woman Who Immortalizes the Dearly Departed

Effie Sfikas is gazing out the front window. The sun is shining, the stores are open and people are walking up and down Ditmars Boulevard. The world is bursting with life. She turns her big, brown eyes to the ground and composes herself. Death is not an easy subject to talk about. “You need to show sympathy and compassion to the families,” she says in a somber voice. Her grave garments — black slacks, white pleated blouse, black tie and black stilettoes – are accented with a serious smile. The bright red soles of her shoes, barely visible when she walks, …

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The Woman of the Cheese Caves

When she was a little girl, Elizabeth Chubbuck used to climb to the top of the wooden jungle gym at the elementary school by her house. Each time, she opened her big blue eyes wide in hopeful expectation. Illinois is a flat-out flat state so she could see for miles and miles. But the view offered her nothing more than the unrelenting cornfields of her hometown of Urbana. “I kept telling myself that there was something …

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The Shave-and-Snip Barber

There are only four stations at Val’s Barber Shop. Val Suyunov, the owner, mans the one closest to the front plate-glass window, where the shop’s humble name is proclaimed is big, bold golden letters. “Val’s is old-fashioned,” he says proudly. “Like the sign in back says: Enter as strangers, leave as friends.” Men – the wholly haired to the brazenly bald – come to Val’s for a haircut, a hot-towel shave and a muscular fellowship that is rooted in each clip and snip. “I’m like a therapist,” says Val, a gracious and gregarious fellow. “I listen to …

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