Thursday, October 14, 2010

biography, memorial and marker

Last week was the "unveiling," a small, short sort of mini-funeral at the one-year mark after a loss. It's called an unveiling because it is the first time that folks "officially" see the grave marker. It was held actually exactly a year since the funeral itself. So, I thought this would be a good time to re-state some of the basics. This mini-biography was one of the first items read.

James Paul Long Jr., a lifelong resident of the Inland Empire of Southern California, was a professional writer by the age of 16 -- a part-time correspondent with the weekly Rialto Record. He later wrote for a variety of newspapers – mostly but not exclusively coverage of sports – especially the San Bernardino County Sun and the Victor Valley (Victorville) Daily Press.
About a decade ago he went to work for the Victor Valley Union High School District, starting as a classroom volunteer, later getting a part-time job with an adult education program within the VVUHSD and eventually spending nearly seven years as a full-time computer media specialist at Victor Valley (Victorville) High School, where he earned consistently superlative evaluations.
In his spare time, Jim was a talented graphic artist and webpage designer who created all his projects “by hand” using the computer coding language HTML. He was an enthusiastic and gifted nature photographer. Especially, he was an award-winning creative writer, taking home four awards in two years while a part-time student at Victor Valley (Victorville) College, where he earned a web-authoring certificate, maintained a 3.9 grade-point average and was a member of the national two-year-college honor society, Phi Beta Kappa. (He earlier had earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies at California State University San Bernardino.)
Jim was plagued with serious health problems since literally before he was born – his mother was accidentally exposed to German measles while carrying him. Tragically, his health dramatically declined in mid-September 2007, and despite intensive medical treatment and therapy, he “traveled beyond the stars” two years later at the age of 46 ½.
Two scholarships have been established in Jim’s name. Anyone wishing to know more about Jim -- including how to donate to either scholarship, to non-profit causes Jim supported during his lifetime or to a possible upcoming exhibition of his photography -- is invited to write to

And here is the wording:

James Paul Long Jr.

Arrived to Earth on March 15, 1963

Traveled beyond the stars on Sept. 24, 2009

Beloved husband, son, grandson, brother, brother-in-law, uncle, nephew, grandnephew

Jim was, is and always will be an incorruptible soul

Friday, September 24, 2010

It was one year ago today ...

that we lost our wonderful James Jr., Jim, Jimmy, Jimbo, my darling baby duck.

No matter what we call him, I pray that we never forget him.

I appreciate all those who already remembered and contacted me by phone, post or email.

Friday, June 4, 2010

one award given, another one set for Saturday

Last month the first Jim Long Communications Scholarship was given, to an outstanding graduate of Victor Valley High School. This scholarship is to fund study of creative writing, journalism, photography, web design, graphic arts: all the things Jim excelled at and loved.

I am further thrilled to let you know that we have already received a generous donation toward next year's candidate. In any case, donations of any amount are gratefully accepted at any time, promptly acknowledged AND tax-deductible. Moreover, I finally have the details in front of me as I type this, so I'll let y'all know that if, say, you might happen to have a spare $20 or so at the end of the month, you might think about donating it to the cause.

If you are so inclined, just send a check made out to "VVHS Scholarship" and with the words "In honor of Jim Long" in the memorandum field. You would mail this check -- along with a short note stating the exact name and exact mailing address that you use in your tax records -- to ASB Bookkeepter, Victor Valley High School, 16500 Mojave Drive, CA 92395. For more information, call Cindi Stone, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays, at (760) 955-3300 extension 31118.

Another award in Jim's name (and not needing funding at this time) will be given out TOMORROW, 3 p.m. Saturday, June 5, 2010, in the library at Victor Valley College. This is part of the ceremony honoring the winners of the most recent writing contest at VVC, a contest that Jim won four times in the late 1990s. If anyone has the time to come by, I would be honored.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Doing what's possible to carry on his vital work

Two scholarships have recently been established to help carry on Jim's work in communications education.

The larger, the one for which the candidate has been chosen AND the one for which donations gratefully will be accepted is at Victor Valley High School in northwest Victorville, where Jim year after year earned superlative evaluations as a computer media specialist.

Donations ARE tax-deductible, and anyone who demonstrates this generosity -- in any amount and at any time -- will receive, by traditional mail, appropriate documentation to this effect.

(If you're interested, reply with a comment and I'll comment back with the details.)

Those who want to see the scholarship presented may attend the ceremony Friday, May 21, at the baccalaureate at High Desert Church in northwest Victorville. You don't need to pay, obtain a ticket or make a reservation. However, word-to-the-wise is to get there closer to 5 p.m. even though the event officially starts at 6 p.m.; this is a popular, well-attended event.

(Again, if you're interested, reply with a comment and I'll comment back with the details.)

The smaller scholarship -- actually a special award in the annual writing contest at the college in which Jim won four awards back in the late 90s -- will be presented at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 5, in the Learning Resource Center aka the library at Victor Valley College in southeast Victorville. Again, it's free and open to the public. No donations are sought for this at this time.

Monday, April 19, 2010

There's no crying in baseball ... well, almost

The High Desert Mavericks is a Single-A Minor League professional baseball team that has played in a stadium near our home for 20 years now. In all that time, Jim never missed a home opener (the first home game of the season, in the first half of April each year), including the team's first, championship season, which he covered for the local paper. Even after he left that employ in June 1992, he followed the team, often covering it for the paper with which he had the longest association -- on and off for nearly 30 years -- the San Bernardino County Sun. Sometimes, we attended Mavs games just for fun, as simple fans.

He was even there in 2008 and 2009, in his wheelchair, with me.

This year we did the next best thing. Last Thursday, April 15, 2010, several of us -- mostly his close relatives, but also a few of his/my friends who had been in touch with me during the preceding month -- sat together at the HardBall Cafe (actually outside seating around restaurant-like tables, with waitress service from adorable young women). That was after I threw out the first, honorary/ceremonial pitch in his name, wearing a team jersey and his favorite ballcap, both black-and-red.

We sang, we danced, we cheered, we reminisced, we even watched the game a little. Everyone signed a souvenir program for me, ditto with the two foul balls that found their way to our section, one landing close to me, one close to his mom.

And, even though everyone knows that there's no crying in baseball, I did shed a few tears, as I do every day.

Back in fall 1991, after the team won the California League, I framed Jim's two companion articles. The team's management very kindly suggested that we hang the piece up in the general manager's office. Soon, I have to write a thank-you note and also suggest that we leave it up for a while; maybe they'll agree to keep it there all season.

Monday, March 15, 2010

For his birthday today, he got another box

Today, Monday, March 15, 2010, would have been -- should have been -- Jim's 47th birthday.

I was at the cemetery for an hour in the late morning. I take what comfort I can in knowing that his arrangements were what he had asked for, piecemeal, during what turned out to be his final year -- in a plain pine box, in the ground, by the duck pond, at Green Acres Memorial Park. (Technically, that specific area is known as Garden of the Good Shepherd.) Jim's beloved maternal grandparents and many of his other deceased relatives are also at Green Acres.

Someone recently asked me about that simple, inexpensive casket. In truth, I have no idea why Jim wanted that specifically, although I can guess; as many of you know, Jim never had a taste for the ornate, the ostentatious, or anything showy or status-conscious.

I will never know whether Jim ever knew that a plain pine box is also the Orthodox Jewish way. That longstanding tradition is supposed to apply to everyone -- rich, poor or in-between -- because ultimately all stand equal before what Jim liked to refer to as The Man Upstairs.

It was the most beautiful day of the year so far, probably about 70, sunny and with just the slightest breeze, which blew the mist from the fountains from the duck pond onto my face.

Those of you who were able to attend the reception after the funeral late in the afternoon of Oct. 9, 2009, know that Jim -- who never served in the military -- was nonetheless accorded a high honor. He (or, technically, I) was presented with a flag that was folded before us, with great ceremony, in exactly the way it is performed for departed veterans.

After a couple of abortive attempts elsewhere in recent weeks, I finally was able to purchase an attractive, correctly sized display case for the flag. I'll keep it with me for the next couple of visits at least until I figure out how to hang it on the wall or otherwise display it.

I'll be back at Green Acres after his marker is installed, which should be by mid-April at latest.

And I'll be there May 31, Memorial Day -- which would have been, should have been, our 18th wedding anniversary AND our re-commitment ceremony.

Friday, January 29, 2010

a trip I had to take without him

Earlier this month I was privileged to be able to spend a week in Durham, North Carolina, with my maternal uncle and his longtime girlfriend. They are wonderful people whom I did not get much of a chance to know until eight or so years ago, when they visited my mother during her terminal illness, came to her funeral and even a year later to the unveiling (a micro-funeral of sorts held on the first anniversary). That was the silver lining to that awful situation; learning how wonderful they are.

Among the many places in the culturally/intellectually elevated city of Durham (two universities, two others in the adjacent cities of Raleigh and Chapel Hill and the world-famous Research Triangle) we got to see were the new baseball park, the old one featured in one of Jim's favorite movies, Bull Durham (still in use by a college team) and the offices of Baseball America.

Though we showed up unannounced to his door, the editor treated us graciously, even though part of my mission was to cancel Jim's long-held subscription. At least I got to explain why, and to express in person that this had been his favorite publication for years (there had even been a brief discussion of his becoming a correspondent, though this never came to fruition).

I asked the editor, I am going to ask a couple of other baseball afficiandos that he knew, and I will ask all readers of this blog for suggestions on what to do with Jim's collection of baseball books, reference and otherwise. Rather than sending them to any general library, I am hoping for them to go to a specialized institution, or even an individual, who would truly value them as he did. I refuse to use the terms "dispose of" or "get rid of" his possessions. Jim's things all meant a lot to him, and of course they mean a lot to me, as well.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The tale of the white feather

Something I have learned is that many churches, bereavement groups and, well, cemeteries hold special group memorials in the early part of December -- often in conjunction with Advent. And so it was at Green Acres.

I went down there that evening, more than a month ago, now. Many had candles, but I neglected to buy one. Luckily, I had my flashlight and a map; finally, I found the spot, which does not yet have its headstone. As with the other mourners, we were each at the spot we needed to be at.

Those of you who were there with me three months ago today know that we were able to follow one of Jim's strong wishes, to have him buried by the duck pond (in what turned out to be the last plot available).

As I got there, I saw that there were ducks of all colors, including white, who quacked and then fell silent as the music began.

As I found the spot, right on the spot, I found a single feather ... a white feather ... bent almost as though it were angel's wings.

I searched all around for many feet all around, including closer to the duck pond. But I didn't see any other feathers.

You may interpret that as you like. I do my best to take comfort in it. And, yes, I still have the white feather.