Gene Long is quick to share his advice for life: “never stop learning; enjoy your vocation, serve your country and community, worship your Creator, and be thankful!”
As Long celebrated his 90th birthday at a party with more than 250 family and friends from six states, laughter prevailed in the room. Harold Staley, local folk singer and songwriter, performed “The Ballad of Gene Long.” A poem about Long that had been written by Rosemarie Powell just two days before she passed away was shared. Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird presented a Proclamation declaring March 5 through March 11, 2017, as Gene Long Week, in recognition of Long’s many years of dedication to our heritage, our community, and his fellow residents.
Long grew up with loving parents and nine siblings at their family farm in Creagerstown, and graduated from Thurmont High School in 1944. After serving in the U.S. Army during WWII, his career involved various agricultural positions, including manager at St. Joseph’s College Farm (site of current National Fire Academy), production manager for Ideal Farms Dairy, and manager of Mid-East Dairy Herd Improvement Association. He has four children, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. He and his wife, Shirley, live near Lewistown.
After his retirement in 1992, Long enjoyed being involved in the community. As a member of the Thurmont Lions Club, he was the leader of the Thurmont Trolley Trail Refurbishing Project. The trail was dedicated to the Town in 2007. Raising funds for causes that he feels are important is one of his passions. He raised more than $38,000 for a handicap-accessible van for the family of an eight-year old child with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Long was instrumental in getting football into Walkersville High School in the late 1970s, and his love of sports and youth led him recently to partner with the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, to provide funding so that a national archery program could be included in the Frederick County curriculum at several schools. The program has been very successful in building self-esteem by offering an even-playing field for all, including youth who may not easily excel at other sports.
Long’s compassion is also shown in quiet ways. The men who pick up the recyclables at his home find cold beverages waiting for them; a four-year-old at his church adopted “Uncle Gene” the very first time they met; and family, friends, and neighbors all benefit from his abundant crop of lettuce each year—still producing from seeds gathered from his own father’s garden.
Despite many hardships, including the death of an adult child, heart stents and by-pass surgery, abdominal aneurysm, amputated fingers, twelve broken ribs, a punctured lung, broken shoulder, etc., he enjoys life and approaches each day with the desire to make that day better for someone else. At ninety years YOUNG, he remains active by playing golf, bowling, playing cards, hunting, tending the garden, and woodworking.
When asked his secret to longevity, he replied, “Learning right from wrong at an early age, finding ways to fully enjoy life in spite of hardships along the way, and good strong genes from the best parents anyone could ever have.”