If a town could have a best friend, then Bill Longhurst was Guthrie's best friend, says Boogie Oliver, who describes the late proprietor of Longhurst Grocery, a supporter and champion of his community, as very modest and very conservative.

It wouldn't have suited Longhurst at all to have a park named in his honor, Oliver notes, or, for that matter, to have a statue in his likeness placed in the park.

But Longhurst, who died last March at his Guthrie home, is soon to have both.

The bronze likeness of "Mr. Bill" is being unveiled at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Longhurst Park that sits just yards away from his grocery on South Ewing Street.

Oliver said the new park is a place for public gathering. Equipped with wrought-iron tables and chairs, it has a stage where concerts are hosted in the summers.

The area for the park and the parking lot behind it were donated four years ago, and work to shape it into a pocket park, or smaller park in the community, began three years ago; it has now hosted its second summer of concerts.

In the beginning, the park had not yet been named, and it would not have suited Longhurst at all if it had already been named, said Oliver, whose Guthrie Hardware store is just across the street from the old Longhurst Grocery.

Now dedicated and named for Longhurst, the park will get an addition Saturday following the Guthrie Christmas Parade when the bronze statue will be unveiled.

The parade itself is slated to begin at 11 a.m.

Oliver offers a caveat to those at the unveiling who might have only known the store proprietor in his later years: The likeness of Longhurst depicts him in his younger years when he was in his 50s, "Bill's favorite part of his life," Oliver said.

During those years, Longhurst was without his familiar eyeglasses.

He was doing well for himself, coaching Little League baseball in Guthrie and Clarksville. His son was pitching for Austin Peay. His grocery store was busy.

Oliver recalls several times when he heard his friend say it was that time, when all those things were going on, that was, for him, the favorite time of his life.

Longhurst had been the town historian for Guthrie, served as a volunteer firefighter in the community and had been a member of Guthrie City Council.

He loved his town and promoted it, Oliver recalls.

For a long time, Longhurst had been an officer in Guthrie Partners for Main Street, the group Oliver said wanted to have the statue of Longhurst done.

"They asked me to speak when they did the park dedication," he recalled of the efforts to rename the park in honor of Longhurst, a Todd County native.

Former Guthrie Mayor Scott Marshall noted that Longhurst was such a close friend and mentor, a humble person who was dedicated to his community.

He wouldn't want the statue, Marshall said, and would likely protest the thought of spending all that money. But he would like it, Marshall noted.

"Personally, I think it's great, a very fitting tribute to him," he said, adding of his friend Longhurst that "he just truly meant so much to so many people."

Marshall calls the pocket park where the statue will make its new home a wonderful venue, and said Guthrie Partners has done a wonderful job with it.

He noted that it is a great addition to downtown Guthrie, and Marshall said the park and the statue will evoke memories of Longhurst's love for his hometown.

"I think the statue of Bill and where they're going to place it and all is something that will not only be a tribute to him but will certainly serve as a personal reminder to those who knew him so well," Marshall said.

Oliver notes that, while the statue would not have suited the downtown proprietor's modesty or his conservative views, yet he is worthy of the honor.

"Everybody else in town, we all think, with all the years of service he's done for the town, it's well-deserved for him," Oliver said of his longtime friend.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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