Community Life

Willie Koonce: "A Really Nice Guy"

Actor John Amos (seated), co-worker Jimmy Gamble, Whitney Houston Academy Principal Henry Hamilton and Robert Lee Credits: Katherine Willis
Picture collage of Willie Koonce Credits: Ms. Catherine Willis
Credits: Catherine Willis

EAST ORANGE, NJ - Seldom does any one individual receive the number of accolades from young and old, male and female alike, matching the recently deceased barber, Willie Koonce. According to a number of interviewees, Mr. Koonce was more than an exceptional barber; he was a “really nice guy”, explains Councilman William Holt.

Former 4th Ward Councilman Holt spoke in glowing terms about the life and legacy of Willie Koonce. He reminisced about their early days in East Orange and how Mr. Koonce reached out and mentored several neighborhood youths in the science of barbering, which, according to the councilman, he learned while in the Air Force.

His funeral service brought out what many consider, ‘East Orange royalty’. Chief among the attendees was veteran actor John Amos of the television hit, Good Times and movie blockbuster, Coming to America.

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In a statement from former Board of Taxation Commissioner and Director of Senior Services, Catherine Willis, she replies, “Some of East Orange finest reminisced about the good old days in EO as they spoke about their friend, mentor, father, father figure, big brother, uncle ,parent and entrepreneur. Willie Koonce touched the lives of many and he shall remain in the hearts of all those whom touched. Thank you John Amos for the eulogy, thank you Rev. Dr. Erica Crawford for the word. Willie was a fisherman and Dr. Crawford reminded us of the word, (Matthew 4:19-20) And He said them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

Mr. Koonce was proprietor of Modern Era Barbers on the corner of Clifford and Halsted for more than 50 years.

Willie Koonce was brother of Mary Patterson former 5th Ward Councilwoman. Mary recently made her transition on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016.

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