November 30, 2021

Cortland cop to lose facial hair for cancer research

Catherine Wilde/contributing photographer

Cortland Deputy Police Chief Paul Sandy stands outside Bru 64 in downtown Cortland, counting down the last days of his 42-year-old mustache. He will shave it March 10 to raise money for childhood cancer research.

CORTLAND — Don’t ask Paul Sandy to smile for a picture. He won’t.

And don’t ask him to shave his mustache, either. Not until March 10.

The deputy chief of the Cortland Police Department hasn’t shaved it in 42 years, since he started growing it at age 14.

But the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money to research childhood cancers through a day of head (or facial hair) shaving, has changed that. Sandy has raised almost $900 in a week, edging closer to his goal of $3,000.

Sandy may be prepared for his mustache shaving, but his coworkers and family still aren’t.

“He’s always teased about it, across law enforcement he’s called the Walrus Man,” said Lt. David Guerrera. Then Guerrera added, “He’s gonna kill me.”

‘Cut-off date’ looms

What: Cortland Deputy Police Chief Paul Sandy shaves his trademark mustache.

When: March 10

Where: The Red Jug Pub, 31 Central Ave., Cortland

Why: To raise money to help cure childhood cancers through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation

What can you do: Two things you can do: Visit and search for Paul Sandy’s name to see options to donate. Or you can decide to be shaved yourself, by clicking on the “Get Involved” option.

Other men on the force have mustaches that come and go, but Sandy’s has always stayed, Guerrera said.

“Because of that, he’s definitely picked on.”

Susan Sandy has told her husband it won’t grow back the same. His sons had little comment but astonished expletives when he announced his plan, Sandy said. After all, they’ve never seen him without one.

Sandy, however, wants to donate to a good cause and felt the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money to help research childhood cancers, was just that.

“To me, being a parent is everything,” Sandy said. “I can’t fathom what these parents go through on a daily basis.”

Paul and Susan Sandy have two healthy sons, Kyle, 27, and Cody, 24. He can’t imagine how difficult it would be to see your child that ill.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation channels money to research into childhood cancer at hundreds of institutions worldwide.

The first St. Baldrick’s event raised $104,000 at a St. Patrick’s Day party in a Manhattan pub in 2000.

In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, the event raised $39.1 million.

The Red Jug Pub has played host to the event since 2014, raising $15,889 last year, said owner Tom Terwilliger, adding $2,000 has already been donated so far this year.

Paul Sandy sits in Macho Burger in this undated photo taken by Deputy Public Works Superintendent Nick Dovi.

“We didn’t have a dime last year ‘til March 1,” he said.

Sandy has sported different styles over the years: a goatee, a beard, a Fu Manchu when he was a narcotics detective in the 1990s. He’s fussy about it. Sometimes he lets his wife trim it, but she won’t hear the end of it if it’s too short.

He’ll tease his coworkers’ efforts at facial follicles. “I’ll say, ‘Is that chocolate milk on your lip?’” Sandy said.

They tease him back. He’s called Tom Selleck or he’ll find pictures of them with a blownup picture of Sandy’s mustache over their lip.

Once in the early 1990s, Sandy came into work to see all his co-workers sipping from mugs adorned with a picture of him when he was 17. Different ‘stache, but still his.

“It’s how we get through life,” he said. “It gets us through the tough times.”

Shaving the mustache serves another purpose besides helping kids, Sandy said.

“Over the past years, police have been in the limelight for the wrong reasons,” he said. “This is another way of letting people know police are people with the same cares and concerns as everybody. And we are doing the job to help people.”

“We’re people too, we’re parents, husbands, wives,” he said.