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'I never met a finer man'

Memories of Howard F. Long range from farming, to service during WWII, to his devotion to Boonsboro

Memories of Howard F. Long range from farming, to service during WWII, to his devotion to Boonsboro

April 02, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

BOONSBORO -

As Howard F. Long's life was ebbing away, he somehow managed to maintain his upbeat personality and even his playful nature, according to his devoted family and associates.

"Every time I went to the bank, the girls at Hagerstown Trust Co. said they were going to miss dad's hugs," said his only son, Howard W. Long. "I said I'd have to take up where he left off."

Born in Keedysville, Howard F. Long died March 23 at the age of 79. The stomach cancer he beat in 1999 took its toll the second time around with surgery no longer an option in his weakened condition, his son said.

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But it was the memories of better times that came out in conversation with his only son, two of Howard's five sisters and a trusted friend.

"Dad loved the beach - we either went to Ocean City for the American Legion convention in July each year or to Wildwood, N.J.," his son said.

In 2001, "Pappy" took his only grandson, Michael, to Disney World in Florida - just the two of them.

Growing up the only child of Howard F. and Leona Long, who died nearly six years ago, young Howard said he learned about civic responsibility from his father.

Currently the assistant mayor of Boonsboro, he said he is going to run for office again in May.

"Dad was on the zoning appeals board and had also served on the utilities and planning boards," young Howard said.

When young Howard was born, the Longs lived above a store in Boonsboro. They moved to Hagerstown, where they lived until young Howard was 10 years old.

"Then, when my grandmother died, we moved back to Red Hill near Keedysville and lived with my grandfather," he said.

Life on the farm

Those years on the farm were special for young Howard, who recalled the time his father bought 50 pounds of seed potatoes and planted them on the Keedysville farm.

"We had a barn full of potatoes and also in the basement," Howard said. "Even my horse, Gypsy, learned to like eating potatoes."

The horse was purchased with the money young Howard saved through the school banking program while he was attending Winter Street Elementary School. Frugality with money was another lesson he said he learned from his father.

Eventually, the family moved to Boonsboro and stayed there.

"I never met a finer man," said longtime friend Orlyn Oestereich, who shared membership with Howard at American Legion Post 10 in Boonsboro since 1987.

Howard joined the American Legion in 1946 and recently was recognized for his 60 continuous years in the organization.

"We went to his home five or six weeks ago," Oestereich said. "He shook his head and wondered why all these important people were in his living room."

Memories of growing up on a farm in Keedysville held special fondness for Howard's sisters, who all shared in the work necessary to keep such an enterprise going in the 1920s and 1930s when they were children.

"Howard was four years older," said one of his sisters, Patsy Slick. "We raised all our own food in those days, which meant we all worked hard."

She recalled that Howard would husk corn before and after school each day so the hogs could be fed.

"Our dad would take produce to Williamsport to sell," Patsy said. "When he got home, we each got a nickel."

When Howard grew up, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He came home and got a job with the Maryland State Highway Department, where he stayed for 30 years.

Then for 11 years, he was employed at the U.S. Post Office in Boonsboro.

Howard would go on his mail route and the family would never know when he would get home, said another sister, Nancy Guyer.

The reason for the delay was Howard's penchant for stopping to talk to people because he was so friendly by nature.

"He knew everybody," young Howard said of his father. "The first day on his mail route and he didn't get home until 8 p.m."

A promise to keep

Oestereich said if it hadn't been for his close relationship with Howard, he wouldn't have been as active in the legion as he is now.

"I stayed with him all night before he died and I made him a promise," he said.

That promise was that Oestereich would get young Howard back in church - a promise he didn't take lightly. He talked it over with young Howard, they came to a decision together and Oestereich vowed he would be the enforcer of that deathbed promise.

"I'm going to follow through on that," young Howard said. "It's for my dad."

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