WAPAKONETA — A brief but not insignificant ceremony was held Thursday afternoon outside the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office.
The brevity of the event was not coincidental, Sheriff Al Solomon told the assembled crowd.
“The Boss wouldn’t want it any other way,” he said.
Solomon’s reference was to the late Larry Longsworth, a four-term sheriff and mentor who lost his battle with cancer in June 2010 at age 62, some seven years after retiring from office.
The reason for Thursday’s ceremony was two-fold: to honor the sheriff who shaped the lives of many Auglaize County law enforcement officers and residents with a memorial stone beneath a tree planted in his honor and to recognize what Solomon termed as Longsworth’s “relentless pursuit” in bringing about the construction of the new sheriff’s office nearly two decades ago.
Longsworth served as the county’s sheriff from 1989 until 2005, winning four consecutive elections without opposition following the retirement of former Sheriff Jim Knoch.
Veteran lawman Jim Wachauf worked alongside Longsworth for more than three decades. He filled the job of Chief Deputy — a new position created by Longsworth when he first assumed office — throughout Longsworth’s 16-year tenure as sheriff.
“I worked with Larry for 33 years, and the key word is ‘with’ him, not ‘for’ him,” Wachauf said. The long-time deputy called his friend and mentor “a politician and a diplomat” who left an indelible mark on members of the sheriff’s office.
“He was a great investigator and just a great all-around guy,” said former deputy and detective Mike Eberle, who worked alongside Longsworth for two decades.
Solomon joined the sheriff’s office in 1979 and worked his way up the ranks. Asked what he had learned from Longsworth, the current sheriff answered with a single word: “Respect.”
“I learned a lot from that man, but one of the biggest things was to always respect the residents of this county,” said Solomon. “He always told us that the person making a call (to the sheriff’s office) is the most important person at that time and that you make a direct route to go and assist them. We still teach new deputies that to this day.”
Janice Longsworth thanked friends and county officials for attending the ceremony for her late husband. Nearly overcome with emotion, she said, “Every day is a good day when you can talk about Larry.”
She said the stone used as the memorial outside the sheriff’s office came from the family farm near Moulton. She said it was appropriate that a tree was planted in her husband’s memory.
“If you know Larry, you know he was very much a nature guy. Our home is surrounded by trees he planted. He was very instrumental in getting this [sheriff’s office] built, and I very much appreciate that he is being honored today.”
Aaron Longsworth, who was joined by his sister, Missy, at the ceremony, told the crowd, “It means a lot to us that he meant so much to you that you would be here today.”
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.