Dad’s day off

As a rule, dairy farmer Brian Detwiler’s day starts early.

Very early.

Before a lot of night owls even go to bed.

“At 2:32 a.m., my alarm goes off,” he said. “Usually about 9 p.m., I’m in bed. I get up and go to the barn to milk the cows, I get back in at 6:30, in time to get the boys up, dressed, breakfast and out the door at 7. If there’s nothing pressing, a lot of times I’ll lay back down for an hour or two.

“But these last few weeks have been just non-stop.”

Brian and his family – his wife, Rachel, and his in-laws – run Maple Kroft Dairy Farm in Skelp. The 120-cow farm, which is now in its fifth generation of Rachel’s family, sells its milk to Galliker’s, shipping out 14,000 to 15,000 pounds of milk every other day. And it’s a non-stop job – “The cows get milked twice a day, every day – 3 in the morning, 3 at night,” Brian said – which has no off-season.

But recently, the 39-year-old father of four boys – A.J., 9; Aiden, 7; Andrew, 5; and Abram, 2 – got a day all to himself as the winner of the 2014 Altoona Mirror Father’s Day Makeover contest. Brian’s name was submitted by his wife.

“Words that come to mind when I think about my husband’s character are sacrifice, hard work, dedication, provider, caring, loving, kind, humble, fun-loving … and stressed,” Rachel wrote in her submission. “He spends 60 plus hours weekly managing and working the farm, and finds time to dedicate to our four boys … often forgoing sleep or activities that he’d liked to do in order to be a father and husband.

“Brian needs a day dedicated for him to relax and enjoy because he is constantly stressed about the things of life, family and business. He is such a great father and I believe winning this contest is the only way he will take the time he needs for himself.”

Brian and Rachel showed up to the Altoona Mirror office on June 3 for his day of pampering. The pair climbed into a limo provided by Altoona VIP Limousine and driver/owner Tonya Romanowicz, with Brian nervous about what was to come.

He admitted, though, that it isn’t easy to find time for himself. The weekend before he visited the Mirror, he had to put in an 18-hour work day just to be able to go to his children’s class graduations. And the kids’ activities make things hectic, as well.

“A.J. is into football and does soccer in the spring, Aiden starts football this fall and he does soccer in the spring … we’re going every day of the week to do something,” Brian said.

“That’s a challenge at the farm, to get done by 5 p.m. to try and do stuff (for the kids).”

The first stop on Brian’s trip was Altoona Honda, where general manager Jeff Knepper presented him with a gift certificate for a free vehicle detailing.

“Just please don’t bring the farm truck,” Knepper said with a laugh.

Brian said they had just bought a new minivan, but after an upcoming vacation at the beach, a detailing would be perfect to get rid of the sand and dirt tracked in by four kids.

The day’s second stop was J.C. Penney’s at the Logan Valley Mall. Brian said that he and Rachel had just been there for clothes the month before.

“I ran out of church clothes,” he said with a smile. “It had been 10 years since we had gone shopping.”

His sense of style isn’t too sophisticated, Brian admitted.

“Shorts and then a shirt is all I wear around the house,” he said. “When we went shopping the last time, I just stayed in the dressing room and (Rachel) just kept bringing me stuff. Clothes don’t matter to me.”

At J.C. Penney, store manager Bill Crouse gave Brian a $250 gift card and asked sales associate Matt Glass to help him out.

Holding the gift card, Brian looked to his wife for help, but she was insistent that he find what he wanted, not what she wanted. Rachel said Brian’s style wasn’t bad, but that he tends to wear the same thing.

“He’s been doing better …” Rachel said.

“Because we went shopping,” Brian interrupted.

“For a while though,” Rachel continued, “we were shopping out of Cabela’s, all we were wearing was Cabela’s clothes.”

“It’s easy,” Brian said in explanation. “I can call it in.”

Eventually, Brian decided to go for dress clothes, particularly things he can wear to church. The Detwilers are very involved with their church, Grace Baptist Church in Tyrone, where Brian is a financial trustee.

With Glass’s help, he picked out a tan blazer, two pairs of dress pants, two dress shirts, two ties, dress socks and a dress shoes. He even had $10 left on his gift card.

Next up was lunch at Jethro’s in Altoona. After steak and shrimp for Brian and a salad for Rachel, server Geri Fries presented Brian with a $25 gift card for the restaurant.

“That was good, I’d come back,” he said.

“We will be coming back!” Rachel said, pointing at the gift card with a smile.

The next stop, however, made Brian nervous again quickly: Razor’s Edge in Greenwood. The visit to the hair salon was what he was most unsure of, considering he had thinning hair that he had even considered shaving off completely.

“We’ll see what happens,” Brian said.

But Razor’s Edge owner Michael DeGennaro wasn’t thrown by Brian’s lack of material. After thinking for a bit, DeGennaro suggested a non-surgical hair graft, which would give Brian a fuller head of hair that mixed naturally with his own hair.

The dairy farmer was very hesitant about the procedure and asked a lot of questions about the graft, which would last four weeks.

“Let me ask you a question: What do you have to lose?” DeGennaro said.

“I would get it done, because why would you not take the opportunity to try something for free?” Rachel said.

After debating for a long time, Brian simply said, “Go ahead.”

As DeGennaro prepared things, Brian voiced one of his biggest concerns: the reactions of other people

“I don’t see many people at my work, but at church … there’s a bunch of jokers,” he said.

The graft took a bit of time to get in place and then shape and style. Enough time that Brian nodded off while DeGennaro worked.

“You fell asleep with no hair and woke up with hair!” Rachel laughed when he was finished.

The difference was certainly noticeable, as Brian looked younger.

“You see the transformation that happened to him,” DeGennaro said. “He definitely looks 10 years younger.”

The rest of the day went quickly, with a stop at Dorman’s Jewelers in Altoonawhere owner Mike Dorman gave Brian a new Citizen Eco Drive watch, which has a solar battery and is valued at $275. Then came a trip to Holland’s Meat Market in Newry, where owner Steve Holland gave Brian a $50 gift card. The day’s final stop was at The Meadows in Duncansville, where Brian enjoyed a sundae and was presented five $10 gift cards by company partner Joe Meadows.

On the way back to the Mirror offices for an “after” picture, Brian reflected on the day.

“It’s been a good time,” he said. “It was a good experience. I enjoyed it. I’m glad my wife submitted me and I’m glad I got picked.”

Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.