EAST WINTHROP — Russell Cotnoir Sr. boasted a head of thick, wavy hair well into his 70s. His nine sons inherited different follicle fortunes.

“He had the thickest head of hair out of all of us,” said Doug Cotnoir, 45, of Chelsea.

But that changed this summer after Russell – never a smoker – received a lung cancer diagnosis and began chemotherapy treatments.

When his hair started to fall out, Russell called Doug and asked him to shave it all off.

“I tried to make light of it,” said Doug, who usually keeps his head shaven. “I said, ‘At 77 years old, you have no business having that long, thick hair.’ “

Doug and his brothers later decided to make a party of it. On Aug. 22, six of Russell’s sons and three grandsons gathered at the family home in East Winthrop with razors to shave their heads clean.

“We just wanted to show him our love and support through this whole thing,” said Jeffrey Cotnoir, 49, of Augusta. “He’s been really the head of the family. We’re a very, very close family.”

Russell, who taught public administration at the University of Maine at Augusta from 1968 to 1990, sat in a lawn chair and enjoyed the humorous scene unfolding before him.

“My wife and I cried. Most of the friends who we showed the pictures to cried,” he said. “It bolsters my ego and makes me feel pretty good about life, that we were successful to have kids who were that concerned.”

Russell showed the pictures to staff members at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care who have provided his treatments.

One son, Russell Cotnoir Jr., couldn’t make it to the head-shaving party since he had to work, Jeffrey said. He’s the pastor at the Fayette Baptist Church.

Another son, Tim, couldn’t make it in person, but he shaved his head at his Virginia home and showed his family via Skype, an Internet phone and video chat service, Jeffrey said.

And a third son, Chris, attended the party but didn’t shave his head with his brothers. That’s because he’s growing it out in preparation for a donation to Locks of Love. He shaved his beard instead.

“This was a way to say, ‘You lost your hair. It’s not a big deal,’” Doug said.

For Russell’s part, the head-shaving camaraderie provided a boost as he dealt with the latest challenge in life.

“We’re pretty strong-willed people and we accept the things that are coming,” he said.

Friday provided another boost, as Russell and his wife, Sylvia, celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.

“We’re awfully proud of the family,” he said.