When she tripped on a power cord at work and fell and broke her hip, Margaret Hunter said she thought, "Well, this is going to be it for me!" She wasn't alone.
"We thought Margaret's career was done," said Tom Morton, a funeral director at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home on East Main Street.
But after surgery and a month of recuperation, Hunter got bored just sitting around her house. So, with her doctor's permission, she started driving herself back to work at Kerr Brothers. That was a year ago.
This week, Kerr Brothers will help Hunter celebrate two big anniversaries: her 92nd birthday and her 52nd year as the funeral home's staff beautician.
"I like what I do, and I'm good," Hunter said with a wry grin. "I'm not ready to throw the towel in. And I'm not ready to go to a nursing home. No way!"
No way, indeed.
"I think she's got more energy now than before she broke her hip," said Brandon Haddix, another Kerr Brothers funeral director.
As a child growing up in Lexington, Hunter says she cut friends' and neighbors' hair with scissors and a straight razor and did home permanents. "I love doing hair," she said. "I've always wanted to be a beautician."
After beauty school, Hunter had her own shop at several downtown locations for about 15 years. Then one day someone asked her to do the hair of a deceased relative for the visitation. That first time was uncomfortable, she said, but then she realized what an important service she was providing for the family.
"Then some of my customers or their mothers would pass away and they would want me to do their hair," she said. "Kerr Brothers saw my work and they offered me a job."
Eventually, Hunter closed her shop and worked only for Kerr Brothers. She usually handles about 25 clients a month, but has done as many as seven in a day.
"I'm on call 24/7," Hunter said. "I've missed a lot of reunions, a lot of get-togethers. I'm here when they need me, because when they have to be out they have to be out."
Hunter said she works from photos, or meets with family members to get their suggestions. Hunter has a small, third-floor workroom at the funeral home, just big enough for a long table, some cabinets and a couple of hair dryers.
She does about 90 percent of Kerr Brothers' clients; the rest have their own beautician fix their hair one last time.
"When I do a lady's hair here, I want her looking nice, because that's the last time her loved ones are going to see her," Hunter said, adding that she often gets cards or kind comments from family members.
Hunter said her accident last August hasn't slowed her much. Her only concession to the new, artificial hip joint is a walking cane, which Kerr Brothers' employees have named Charlie.
"I'd go crazy if I stayed home every day," said Hunter, who also takes pride in doing her own house cleaning. She has lived in her home in the Deepwood subdivision since it was new in 1962. Her husband, John, who was a maintenance worker for the city, died in 1996. She has a son, Garrett, who lives in Cynthiana.
Hunter doesn't cut her own hair — although she says she could — but she mixes the coloring for her beautician to use. "I wouldn't want to be your beautician," Morton tells her.
In her free time, Hunter enjoys meeting friends for meals at Loudon Square Buffet, a longtime restaurant on North Broadway.
Kerr Brothers' management has promised Hunter a job as long as she wants it, Morton said. She has no plans to retire.
"I love what I do," she said. "I love working at Kerr's. They're just like family. To me, they are family. I call this my second home, because this will probably be the last door I go out of."