By job description — fitness instructor, barber, mailman, facility supervisor — they are ordinary people.

But these ever-present characters have a life, interests and history outside the roles for which we know them.

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

After nearly 50 years, Bob Colombe knows a thing or two about cutting hair. Especially for businessmen whose styles rarely deviate from the short, clean-cut look.

“Cutting hair is the same,” he says. “We have three to four generations of families coming in here. I guess that’s what happens when you stick around for a long time.”

Colombe, 72, opened Preston Forest Barbers in 1963, tucked away in a corner next to Whole Foods. It previously was located at Preston and Royal for one year.

He hesitates to talk about his high-profile Dallas clients, which include Ross Perot, Clint Murchison and Blackie Sherrod — mostly out of respect to his not-so-famous customers.

“Everybody’s important. But I do consider them friends,” Colombe says of the more famous names.

Colombe began his career in 1958 at age 18, attending American Barber College in Downtown Dallas through a government program that aimed to get young American Indians off reservations and into the workforce. Colombe grew up on a ranch in South Dakota where there were no banks, no jobs and no electronics.

“You were confined to your own abilities. It was boring. You don’t go anywhere. People end up joining the service (Navy, Army, etc.), they have a ranch job or construction job or they go work for the government.”

He says moving to Dallas made him realize how cut off his hometown really was. It’s not that the people are against modern ideas; they’re just slow to adapt.

“They just got cell phones a few years ago.”

Colombe settled in Dallas but still embraced his culture. From 1989 to 2001, he organized an arts fair Downtown.

“It gave artists a chance to sell their work.”

Now, he spends most days at his barbershop post right next to the entrance. The small, narrow space is lined with swivel chairs on one side and a waiting area on the other side, encouraging an old-fashioned barbershop atmosphere. Most clients just talk sports.

“You attract who you are,” Colombe says. “I enjoy doing what I do. You have friends come in every day.”

Photos by Can Türkyilmaz

About 18 years ago, Bobby Jones left a cushy accounting job to deliver mail.

“I couldn’t sit in a cubicle all day. I love people. I am a serious people person.”

Jones works out of the Northaven Post Office, covering Preston Hollow homes, including the Disney Streets. His goal is to have some kind of impact on everyone he meets.

“If I meet you, I want to change your life,” he says. “Attitude is everything. I can read people very well. I can tell if they’re going through something. It’s pretty amazing that I get paid to possibly affect someone’s life.”

Jones, 44, grew up in New Orleans with a privileged life playing sports. He played college basketball at the University of Tennessee and says he could have gone pro. But a back injury brought that plan to a halt.

“It forced me to take the light off myself and focus on others. I realized that I had to be responsible.”

So he married young at age 20. He has one daughter who almost died at birth. She was born three and a half months premature, weighing 1 pound and 8 ounces.

“She could fit in my hand,” Jones says. “That was very humbling to me to see something that small.”

After three months in the hospital, she pulled through and grew up to live a healthy life.

“It made me believe in God. Before that, God was more theoretical to me.”

Besides delivering mail and raising his family, Jones has spent the last 12 years doing missionary work in places like Mozambique, Africa.

“What struck me is that the life expectancy there is 40 years. I’m 44. I was an old man there.”

Jones also finds time to work on his graduate degree to help execute what he says is a five-year plan, which he declines to detail. Meanwhile, he continues to be an ambassador for the postal service even as its future becomes uncertain. Jones says he opts for snail mail over digital technologies.

“Every month, I buy two books of stamps whether I need them or not. I encourage others to do the same.”

Photos by Can Türkyilmaz

Diane Feagins spent her childhood on a farm in Texarkana, growing her own vegetables and raising chickens and hogs. She also has 16 brothers and sisters.

“I’m used to hard work,” she says.

Feagins, 52, has been watching over Withers Elementary for the past 12 years. As the facilities supervisor, she unlocks the school at 6 every morning, sometimes earlier during the winter months so she can heat the building before students arrive.

Withers office manager Sheri Whitford says Feagins is vital to the school’s operation.

“She is the backbone of this school. It’s all the things that nobody sees.”

Feagins makes her rounds each day cleaning bathrooms, making sure teachers have the equipment they need, regulating the temperature of the building.

“I’m just everywhere,” she says. “Wherever they need me. Remember the swine flu? That was a big deal. I have to make sure all the restrooms are disinfected. That’s one of my main jobs.”

Feagins moved to Dallas in 1987 and started as a custodian at Gooch Elementary. She spent five years there, then worked nights at Thomas Jefferson High School, which proved too difficult while trying to raise her two grandchildren, who came to live with her after her daughter committed suicide in 1998. Feagins is still trying to make sense of it.

“It was hard. We know it was a gunshot, but we don’t really know what happened. That’s the part that messes you up.”

She took a day job at Withers, which allowed her to spend the evenings with her grandchildren, who are now 17 and 18 years old.

“[Withers] told me I’d be a great asset, and I’ve been here ever since.”

During the ice storm last February, Feagins spent the night at Withers for five days to make sure the boiler stayed on. She slept on two mats on the floor inside her office.

“I didn’t sleep too much.”

She’s also on call when anything happens at the school overnight — vandalism, break-ins and false alarms. Feagins, a neighborhood resident, makes a short drive to campus to check in with security guards to make sure all is well.

“I slip something on and come out here at 2 a.m., 4 a.m. …”

But now, because of Dallas ISD budget cuts, Feagins’ job is on the chopping block. The district is exploring the idea of bringing in outside contractors to replace the facilities supervisors.

“I hope they don’t do that,” Feagins says. “I’d be devastated. It’s not fair. We do a lot of things for teachers that we don’t have to do.”

Photos by Can Türkyilmaz

Town North YMCA fitness coordinator Tiffany Rodgers ends each of her classes in an unconventional way. She invites the women to stay afterward for Bible study in the lobby, where they end up sharing some deeply personal issues.

“I’ve gotten to know a lot of people that way,” she says.

Rodgers oversees 110 classes and 60 instructors per week and teaches two classes of her own. She has been working at Town North since 1999, commuting 40 minutes from North Carrollton.

“It’s worth the drive. It’s a special place. This is like a second family.”

Rodgers has seen children, including her own, grow up at Town North. But she also has grown close with her older students. She leads a low-impact aerobics class for seniors.

“There are 92-year-olds who can do stuff that many 20-year-olds can’t.”

Dick O’Connor, 84, stops by Rodgers’ office regularly for a quick hug and a few kind words.

“She is so friendly and helpful. And she’s good looking, too,” he jokes.

Rodgers, who has a business management degree from Texas Christian University, never planned on having a career in fitness. She started out like many women do, she says.

“I had two young kids, and I liked working out. That’s how so many moms get into to it — to get paid to work out.”

She spends most of her spare time attending her daughter’s volleyball tournaments and studying to become a missionary. Rodgers already has traveled abroad to impoverished areas in Latin America. She’s also done work in needy areas near home in South Dallas.

Rodgers recently took a course through Christian World Movement at Prestonwood Baptist Church, where she is a member.

“The key thing is to learn other people’s faiths and cultures before you try to tell them about Christianity. This could be my future.


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