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Omer M. Long Sr.

January 24, 2009|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Omer M. Long Sr., who died Jan. 12 at the age of 87. His obituary was published in the Jan. 14 edition of The Herald-Mail.

When Gwen Long and her husband were preparing to move to the Halfway area some years ago, she decided it was the perfect time to simplify her life.

"I was going to get rid of some things, including the letters Omer wrote to me during the war," Gwen said.

But she decided to keep them.

"There was a lot of history in them -- he went into a lot of detail," she said.

Recently, after Omer died Jan. 12 at the age of 87, Gwen pulled all of those letters out and reread them. She said she was glad she had decided not to toss them out.

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After all, Gwen and Omer first got to know each other through those letters.

"Our mothers met at their church activities, and Omer's mother suggested I write to her son, who was in the Navy stationed in California," Gwen said.

At the time, Gwen was a registered nurse in her early 20s working at Washington County Hospital.

"I actually lived there because I was on call three or four nights a week," she said.

When Omer came back to Hagerstown, he and Gwen had their first date on V-J Day in August 1945.

"We went to see the movie 'The Corn is Green' with Bette Davis," she recalled.

It was on that first date Gwen discovered Omer talked as good as he wrote. After he was discharged from the Navy in New York, Omer came home, and he and Gwen were married on Christmas Eve 1946.

"Just before we got married, we bought a house in Hamilton Park," Gwen said. They moved into their first home in April 1947.

Armed with a degree in mechanical engineering that he earned before World War II, Omer got a job at Fairchild when he got home, Gwen said. Their first child, Karol, was born in 1948. A son, Omer Jr., aka "Mac," came along in 1951.

"We did a lot together as a family," Gwen said.

Karol Hottle remembers family vacations in the summer, but as she tells it, they were more like field trips.

"We toured paper mills, a pickle factory and a place that made tombstones," Karol said by telephone. "Dad always wanted us to learn something, even on vacation."

A "vacation" to Detroit when Mac was just a boy turned into a tour of an automobile factory and a steel plant.

"We were going to fly to Detroit to pick up a car dad had ordered and then were going to drive it home," Mac said by telephone. But the family instead had to drive one car out and two cars back, splitting up for the return trip.

During those early years, Omer worked for several corporations. He held numerous patents during his career, and retired in 1986 from the U.S. Postal Service as general manager of research and development.

"I raised the children while he was working," Gwen said. When his job moved, Omer would do the commuting so his family could stay put.

Once Omer retired at the age of 65, his second life really began. And it got started the very next day, Gwen said.

Omer started looking into volunteering at the Fahrney-Keedy Home right away. When he volunteered, it was for a full day at a time.

"I just told him I wanted him in the door at 5:45 p.m. for the family meal," Gwen said.

Omer's passion for history and genealogy led him to compile and publish books on the Long, Slifer and Fahrney families.

Gwen said she often accompanied Omer on excursions into cemeteries near and far so he could get information from the headstones.

There also was a lot of research done at the Washington County Courthouse, where Omer encountered Jason Malott, a Williamsport man who has worked at the courthouse for about 20 years.

"I came to know Mr. Long when he was researching. I obtained a copy of his history of the Long family and we had a few chats about folks we knew ... he went to school with many of my family," Jason said. "He was so very kind and a wealth of knowledge on many family histories."

Omer had just completed a manuscript for a history of the Fahrney-Keedy Home and was heavily involved in preserving Dr. Peter Fahrney's office, which until recently had been on the site of the Fahrney-Keedy Home on Mapleville Road.

The office since has been transported to the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum on Sharpsburg Pike to become a permanent exhibit.

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