Story of “Tony the Barber”

October 18th is a National holiday known as No Beard Day. While there is no explanation for why the Holiday exists or how it began, it is a day that celebrates a clean-shaven face. Since this Holiday is all about shaving off your beard, Osceola History thought we would dedicate a Blog to Kissimees’ very own “Tony the Barber.”

Welcome To America

Like 3 million other Italian immigrants who traveled to America between 1900 and 1915, Giovanni “John” Mainella and his wife Angelina sought a better life for their family. After settling in Fairmont, West Virginia, with their two sons, Joseph and Cosimo Anthony. John went to work in the coal mines. By 1925, John and Angelina were the parents of ten children – eight boys and two girls.

Growing Up in the Land of Opportunity

Although John and Angelina could not read or write, all their children attended school. Many immigrant surnames changed, and Mainella eventually became Monell. In 1930 at the age of nineteen, Cosmo worked as a barber in a Fairmont barbershop, a skill he learned at the age of fourteen. 

In 1934 Cosmo married Julia W. Campbell in Fairmont, where they began a family. By 1940 he was the proprietor of his own barbershop. A true “band of brothers,” all eight Monell brothers enlisted and served during World War II. Cosmo was assigned the job of cutting GI’s hair. General Patton requested Cosmo cut his hair and was so pleased he had Cosmo travel all over Europe with him as his personal barber. One brother, Anthony Daniel “Tony,” was killed in the first group out for the invasion in 1944, but the remaining seven brothers returned home. Michael, one of the brothers, settled in Orlando, Florida was recorded in 2012 telling about the eight brothers in World War II. You can listen to Michael here: 

Headed to the Land of Sunshine

Tony giving Kent Donahue First Haircut Certificate
Tony giving Kent Donahue First Haircut Certificate

Following the war Cosmo, moved his family to Kissimmee, Florida, where, to no surprise, he opened a barbershop. Although the shop’s location changed, Cosmo was well-known in town as “Tony the Barber.” When rodeo time rolled around, Tony would offer to shave, for free, the winner of the beard-growing contest. And the number of little boys who got their first haircut from Tony is endless. Kent Donahue (shown in the photo) wasn’t happy about his, even when Tony presented his certificate.

Enjoying Semi-retirement

An active member of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Tony served as head usher for thirty-eight years. In his mid-70s, Tony became semi-retired, but at the age of 91, was still cutting hair for friends. An avid bowler, Tony also enjoyed a good game of cards and shuffleboard. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, Kissimmee Elks Lodge, St. Cloud VFW, Kissimmee American Legion, and past governor of Loyal Order of the Moose. Cosimo Anthony “Tony” Mainella/Monell was born in Frozolone, Italy, on June 17, 1910, and died in Kissimmee, Florida, on September 25, 2002. He and his wife Julia, who passed away in 1988, are buried in Osceola Memory Gardens in Kissimmee.

Written By Anza Bast