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Santa [Mike] puts his snowy beard up for auction

Mike Dunn as Santa, pre-shave for Alzheimer’s Wairarapa. PHOTOS/MARY ARGUE

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A couple of days before Christmas, Santa disappeared, never to be seen again – at least in the mirror for one Masterton man.

After 56 years of sporting a luscious beard, long and snow-white in later years, Mike Dunn shaved.

But fear not, kids, it was for a good cause.

At the lively Masterton Service Club last week, Dunn’s beard was removed and auctioned in a bid to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Wairarapa.

Dunn said the stunt was personal.

His wife June had been diagnosed with dementia, and he said the situation had made him feel helpless.

“I feel so sorry for people like my wife. They change from one person to another. It’s not June.

“I felt I needed to do something. Well, the only thing I’ve got is my beard.”

Originally from Liverpool, Dunn, a bearded stonemason, moved to New Zealand to help build Parliament’s Beehive.

He said no one in New Zealand had seen him without a beard.

Until last week, Dunn said his last shave was New Year’s Eve when he was 24.

“I had cuts all over my face, right before a party.”

Mike Dunn shaved his beard for the first time in 56 years and is now without his fluffy white beard.

He decided then and there that he would never shave again.

More than half a century later, Dunn living in Masterton, noticed the first telltale signs of dementia in June.

“She had a very good memory. She could remember all the names of flowers.

“All of a sudden, she was asking me.”

Alzheimer’s Wairarapa chairwoman Jude Clark said dementia was a cruel disease and that Dunn was making a “huge sacrifice”.

She said each person was affected differently but that the general progression of the disease was universal.

“At a cafe they go from being able to order a coffee and choosing what to eat, they can pay.

“Then they can’t choose what to eat, but they still order a coffee and can pay.

“Next they can’t choose what they want, can’t pay, and can’t remember.

“It must be very frightening.”

Clark said the money raised from Dunn’s shave would help fund an Alzheimer’s Wairarapa nurse.

She said the nurse provided respite for carers by taking their loved one who has dementia for an activity.

“It means the carer gets a day where they can go to the bank, do the shopping.”

She said everyone knew someone with dementia, and the demand for resources was increasing.

Alzheimer’s New Zealand said dementia was “one of the greatest health challenges facing Aoteaora”.

It said about 70,000 New Zealanders lived with dementia, which was expected to double by 2050.

“Existing dementia support services are woefully inadequate now and are nowhere near what’s required to cope with this growing challenge.”

  • Donations to support Mike Dunn’s fundraising effort can be made through the Alzheimer’s Wairarapa webpage: https://alzheimers.org.nz/wairarapa

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