Story and photos by Mike DuBose
Oct. 25, 2022 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UM News)
Friends, family and his beloved church community are coming together to make sure Jake Sherrell gets his flowers while he yet lives.
Sherrell, 96, runs North Nashville’s Bel-Aire Unisex Salon where he’s brought to Christ hundreds who have sat in his barber chair.
He opened Bel-Aire in 1957 and can still be found there most days, cutting hair and sharing the Gospel, despite his stage 4 cancer diagnosis.
On a recent Wednesday morning, more than a dozen well-wishers crowded into the barbershop to celebrate Sherrell’s impact on the community, sharing stories and singing favorite hymns.
“You know the saying is, ‘give me my flowers while I live,’” said Rosa Sherrell, Jake’s wife of 21 years, calling to mind the hymn by gospel artist James Cleveland. “This is gonna bless him.”
Jake Sherrell, a member of Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church for almost 80 years, is among the winners of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award for 2022. Each year, annual conferences and the Foundation for Evangelism recognize one youth, one clergy and one lay person in each conference.
Pointing to a picture of his church hanging above the shop’s front door, Sherrell said, “If you come in here and want me to cut your hair, we’re going to bring up in conversation somewhere down the line how you feel about joining this church.
“It just got to be a part of my life,” Sherrell said. “I felt it so strong that I could draw people to Christ.”
Sherrell’s daughter, Tonya Bosley, came to work in the barbershop and hair salon in 2001 “with the intention of staying two weeks,” she said.
She jokingly describes her father as a “part-time gangster” who knows how to relate to young people in the working-class neighborhood shared by the barbershop, Gordon Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. High School.
“He’s led, protected and guided so many of our Black men,” she said.