Russell Hiatt was a fixture in downtown Mount Airy, giving haircuts to generations of “Andy Griffith Show” fans who knew him as a real-life Floyd the barber.
And although he died in May at age 92, a project spearheaded by a local businesswoman and friend of Hiatt’s will ensure his memory lasts for years to come. It will involve the installation of a special granite bench memorializing the Mayberry barber which will be placed in Canteen Alley located just up the street from his shop.
Along with Hiatt’s name, the bench will feature the image of a barber pole with the label “Floyd” underneath, based on his loose association with the fictional character on the television show likely inspired by barbers in Griffith’s hometown.
Angela Shur, owner of Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies, located on North Main Street near Floyd’s City Barber Shop — where Hiatt plied his trade as a barber beginning in 1947 — was affected by Hiatt’s death on May 3, as were Mayberry fans.
However, the loss ran much deeper for Shur and her husband Randy.
“Russell was like a personal friend to us,” she said. “Russell was really close to me.”
Not only did Hiatt eat at Miss Angel’s two or three times per week, he and Angela Shur often took walks together and had many conversations, she recalled Monday of a man known for his warmth and kindness.
“We used to sit on the bench outside our store.”
Hiatt’s death this spring was hard for Shur to get over, but also spurred her to action.
“It saddened me so deeply that I felt the need to instantly do something in his honor,” the local business owner explained. “I said, ‘I loved him — I had to do something.’”
Thus, the idea for the memorial bench in honor of Russell Hiatt was hatched, which included a fundraising campaign of sorts.
“The next day I came to work with a huge glass jar, a framed photo of Russell and myself from a past birthday party of his and a letter which I affixed onto the jar asking all my customers for donations,” the business owner added.
The Shurs chipped in $250 to start, and others did the rest. “The girls gave up their tips,” Shur said of employees at Miss Angel’s who played a key role in filling the cookie jar along with customers.
This led to the $650 needed for the memorial bench being raised, and last Thursday night Shur obtained approval from the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners for it to be located on municipal property at Canteen Alley.
A ceremony recently was held at that facility after an improvement project that included the addition of a stage and other amenities on the heels of a historic Coke sign being restored on a wall of the alleyway.
Shur ordered the memorial bench Monday, which city crews soon will install in Canteen Alley.
She believes the bench will be a fitting addition to that site, a place for “his loyal following and family to reflect just how great of a man he (Hiatt) was” while seated there.
A formal dedication ceremony is planned later for the memorial bench, Shur said, with city officials and members of Hiatt’s family to participate.
And she says it is no accident that the material chosen for it was granite and not wood — “so it will be here forever, just like he was.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.