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October 5, 2012

South Knoxville man receives moustache transplant

Growing up in South Knoxville, Jeeter Duncan and Jimmy Claiborne shared just about everything.

The two friends grew up on the same street, went to the same elementary school, even blew up frogs with bottle rockets and pummeled cans of Sun Drop with baseball bats together.

"We even put a snake in old Miss Bryson's mailbox," said Claiborne.

Now as adults, the two boyhood friends share something else -- a moustache. On Oct. 3, they were both admitted into UT Medical Center for an operation that saved Duncan's upper lip.

"I'm not a hero," said the 45-year old Claiborne. "I'm just old school. This is how my mama raised me."

As adults, the men took deviating paths. Duncan dropped out of high school and opened up a bait shop. Claiborne became a Democrat.

But through it all, the two stayed in touch. They kept up with each other through the decades - in recent years on MySpace, which the two still use for some reason.

Two weeks ago, Duncan, also 45, lost his moustache when his estranged wife shaved it off in a fit of rage.

Claiborne called Duncan frequently with encouragement as his friend waited for a donor. But Duncan was scared.

"I had no family members that matched, and those waiting lists can take years," he said.

Claiborne's decision wasn't made flippantly. He called a family meeting with his wife and three children.

"I told her I was thinking about it," said Claiborne. "She said, 'Yes, please, God. I would pay you.'"

Duncan was shocked when Claiborne gave him the news. Duncan initially told him no. But Claiborne refused to back down.

"He just called me and said 'I want to give you my moustache,'" said Duncan. "I couldn't believe it. And you know what? I would do the same for him in a New Market minute."

"A friendship like this you don't take lightly," added Duncan. "How many people would give you the moustache right off their face? Not many, I'll tell you that right now."

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