Highway Dedication For William S. Whitehurst
Cal Trans is dedicating an 18 mile stretch of Highway 152 to William S. Whitehurst. It's from the 152 off-ramp off Highway 99, and heads north 18 miles towards Los Banos.
William S. Whitehurst, prominent Fresno businessman, civic leader and devoted and generous friend to countless institutions, organizations and individuals died at 89 on January 3, 2012.
Below is Whitehurst's story following his death.
Mr. Whitehurst passed away in the early hours of Tuesday at Saint Agnes Medical Center surrounded by his wife and three sons. Bill served with the U.S. Army in the Pacific and upon his return was elected to the Los Banos city council at the age of 21. It was also at this time that the family expanded their funeral chapels to Firebaugh, CA and Dos Palos, where he subsequently served two terms on that city's council. In addition to his early involvement in the family funeral chapels, he owned and operated an ambulance service for Merced, Fresno and Santa Clara counties until the mid-1950s. Other business ventures included owning and operating three ranches producing beef cattle and cotton as well as owning rental properties, apartments and a savings and loan, all in the Los Banos and Dos Palos areas. As a logical complement to his funeral chapels, Bill also opened a flower, gift and landscaping business, and secured his state landscape contractor's license. In 1958 Mr. Whitehurst expanded his business into Fresno, purchasing the Sullivan, Burns & Blair Funeral Home and subsequently built Fresno's Whitehurst Chapel in 1965. He also acquired Stephens & Bean Funeral Home in Fresno in 1968. Bill eventually owned and operated funeral chapels throughout the Central Valley. Following his early terms as city councilman, he was tapped as Fresno County Campaign Chairman for Presidents John F. Kennedy (1960) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1964). He served in the same capacity for California Governor Edmund G. Brown in his successful 1962 bid. Mr. Whitehurst was committed to his work as a member of the California Highway Commission from 1963 to 1970, spearheading the renovation of the stretch of Highway 152 leading out of Los Banos and known as "Blood Alley," the state's deadliest road. During his tenure he also met disappointment, working diligently but unsuccessfully alongside his friend Walt Disney to develop the Mineral King area, potentially among the world's finest natural ski areas. He was understandably proud to spearhead his son Dan's successful election as Fresno's youngest-ever mayor.