It took a few days before folks started noticing something different about John Eubanks.
He had whiskers on his face.
A man stopped him in the hallway at work. “You got a haircut,” he said. “And you’re growing a moustache.”
The lady at the rent-a-car place on Riverside Drive took one look at the 3.5-inch growth of light-brown hair beneath John’s nose and politely asked: “Did you forget to shave?”
John is 31 years old and a wealth management advisor at Patton, Albertson & Miller.
Until three weeks ago, had never accumulated more than a few days growth of facial hair. An occasional milk moustache, maybe, but nothing to rival Clark Gable, Tom Selleck and the little man on the Monopoly board.
However, November is “Movember” and John’s new look is his newfound opportunity to raise both awareness and funds to fight prostate cancer, the second-leading cause of death among men.
The Movember Foundation combines “mo,” an abbreviation for moustache, with the month of November as a platform to call attention to men’s health issues, most notably prostate cancer.
The foundation encourages “Mo Bros” to grow moustaches (sometimes spelled mustache), form teams, solicit pledges and “change the face of men’s health.”
John’s father, Don Eubanks, died six weeks ago of prostate cancer. Three weeks ago today, on Halloween afternoon, John began recruiting male family members to join him for Movember.
It was a last-minute campaign on the last day of October. He got verbal agreements from his brother, Charles Eubanks, and brothers-in-law Derek Culp, Gray Spratling and Stephen Nash.
Soon, he had 15 family members and friends signed up with the promise to keep razors away from their upper lips for 30 days.
John chose “Don Juans” as the name of their team. Don was in honor of his father. Juan is Spanish for John.
And, in case you’re wondering, Don Juan did have a moustache.
“Unfortunately when my moustache started to grow, I looked more like Zorro,” John said, laughing.
The appearance is doing exactly what it is intended to do.
“It’s a conversation piece,” said John’s sister, Elizabeth Culp. “People are supposed to ask about the moustache.”
Elizabeth was not familiar with the Movember movement until a few weeks after her father passed away. She is an emergency room physician at the Medical Center, Navicent Health. One of the doctors she works with told her his father had also died of prostate cancer.
The doctor sent out an email, asking for support for the Movember team he had put together in memory of his dad. Elizabeth forwarded the email to her brothers, Charles and John, and sister Dorothy Spratling, with the idea to create their own team.
Don Eubanks was a good man and well-respected in this community.
He grew up in Macon, graduated from Lanier High in 1964 and married his high school sweetheart, Martha McKay.
They had been newlyweds less than a year when he enlisted in the Army and went to Vietnam.
Because of his language aptitude skills, he learned Vietnamese and served as a translator. He was a 2nd lieutenant and received the Bronze Star during the 1970 invasion of Cambodia.
He worked for SunTrust Bank for 22 years and was a senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch at the time of his death.
He was laid back, with a quick wit, and his four children can’t ever remember him not being there for them. He attended their soccer games, gymnastics meets and Boy Scout meetings. Their friends loved him so much they begged the Eubankses to adopt them. His grandchildren adored him.
Don had a sense of adventure. He was an avid outdoorsman, licensed pilot, certified scuba diver and devoted gardener. He loved to work with wood and once built a sailboat in his garage. That was fitting, since his family was convinced he “sailed through life perfectly content with whatever he was doing.”
John gave the eulogy at his father’s memorial service at Christ Episcopal Church in Macon. He and his siblings wrote it together.
“He marched to the beat of his own drum and lived his life on his own terms,” John said in the eulogy. “He was a study in contradictions, driving to Elko in a beat-up Suburban full of guns and machetes while listening to NPR and Beethoven and Bach ... or just static. He was just as comfortable having a steak at Natalia’s as he was eating Moon Pies and drinking peach Nehi at the gas station on Highway 26.”
About the only thing Don Eubanks was stubborn about was being sick. He hardly ever missed a day of work. He insisted on going to the office five days before he died. He rarely took a Motrin or Tylenol.
So he never talked much about his prostate cancer. He was diagnosed 12 years ago with an aggressive form of the disease, which affects one in six men. (Georgia has the fourth-highest per capita death rate.)
It was suspected that his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam contributed to his risk for prostate cancer. He began receiving indemnity compensation from the Veterans Administration four years ago.
The only time Don ever sported a moustache was in the 1970s. John and Elizabeth remember the photographs.
“It was the times,” Elizabeth said, laughing. “It was very prominent and impressive, a fashion statement back in the 1970s.”
Now, the family is making a different kind of statement. As of Thursday, the Don Juans had raised more than $4,100, mostly through word of mouth and social media connections. (Contributions to the team can be made at www. movember.com.)
John expects to shave his moustache on Dec. 1, at the request of his wife, Katherine.
But, for now, there are 10 more days of inspired whiskers with an important message.
“Sometimes I feel compelled to tell people about the moustache before they even ask because I know they’re wondering why,” he said.
Start the conversation. Movember is doing its job.
Contact Gris at 744-4275 or email@example.com.