Worth Knowing: Waubun barber drew customers from miles away

Max Voss gave haircuts six days a week for nearly 60 years to customers from far and wide.

Max Voss of Waubun, Minnesota, displays a catch in this family photo. Contributed / The Voss family
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Editor's note: Each week reporter Matthew Guerry shares the life stories of residents of Minnesota or the Dakotas who have died recently. Maybe you don't know them, but their stories are worth knowing. If you have a suggestion for someone to be featured, email or call 651-321-4314.

People used to come from hours away to get a hair cut from Max Voss.

That's partly because the Waubun, Minnesota, barber kept his prices so low. They never rose above $5 a head.

"You know when gas was cheap, you could drive 40, 50 miles and get a haircut and still go home with a buck or two in your pocket," Robert Horack, a friend and longtime customer of Voss's recalled.

The biggest draw might have been the barber himself. Gabbing with Voss, who died of a stroke Feb. 7, 2021, was an integral part of the experience.


"He could get along with anybody," Horack said in an interview. "We miss him."

Born in nearby Ogema, Minnesota, on August 27, 1933, to Albert "Ole" and Dorothy Voss, Maxamillian Norbert Voss was the second of the couple's children to grow up in the area. The Waubun High School graduate returned there in 1960, several years after his stint in the U.S. Navy. He brought a nascent barbering business started in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, his wife, Cleo Kahabka, and son, Tim Voss, with him.


He barbered for roughly 60 years, only slowing down after a stroke two years ago. Voss for decades took only walk-ins at the tiny shop he founded in Waubun, which was open six days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It wasn't uncommon for him to go and give haircuts to local nursing home residents after closing up shop for the evening.

"He would do anything for anybody," son Tim Voss said in an interview, taking house calls for bedridden customers and comping haircuts for anybody who couldn't pay up front.

"He doesn't think anybody ever stiffed him for a haircut," Tim Voss said. "They would always come back and pay him."

Knowledgeable and passionate about the Waubun, Ogema and Flom communites, Voss was known as something of a historian and was active over the years in local chapters of the VFW, American Legion and Knights of Columbus. Though he rarely missed work, Voss did close his shop one week each year to go deer hunting.

"We had a shack out in the woods, we call it the Pink Panther. It was an old trailer house that Maxie got ahold of," Horack said. "We had a fuel oil stove for heat and then had a propane stove for making food. There was no running water, nothing like that. And we had a ball."


An avid collector, Voss left behind antiques, guns, pocket watches, stamps, and coins, many of which Tim Voss said will remain in the family. Granddaughter Tori Burns said Voss gave her 2-year-old son a coin from his collection shortly before his death.

"He was the most loving, caring, man, that I've ever known, and just someone that I'm so glad that my son was able to meet," she said.

Voss is survived by Kahabka and Tim Voss, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and by his siblings.

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