Whatever Ed Long did, he gave his all. That’s the first thing most people mention when you ask them how they will remember the former Oklahoma State Senator and OSU Regent who died Thursday in the early morning hours.
Long was born in Garber and later moved to Enid, where he lived for many years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education from Oklahoma State University in 1956 and had a career in agribusiness as the owner of several northwest Oklahoma John Deere dealerships.
Long served as a member of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education 1979-88 and was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate to represent District 19 1988-96.
He is remembered fondly by people in the Enid area.
“No one has done more for our area of Oklahoma and all of Oklahoma than Mr. Long. He was a statesman, a great senator, he focused a lot on all levels of education,” Security National Bank Vice Chairman Bert Mackie told the Enid News and Eagle. “The common schools, the higher education, the CareerTechs, and he basically started early childhood development in Oklahoma. I would say that if we had more Ed Longs in state government, our state would be in much better condition today than it is.”
Long relocated to Stillwater when he retired.
He was known for being active and service-oriented wherever he lived, becoming involved with the local chambers of commerce, Rotary clubs and local schools.
People in Stillwater remember him as a tireless community servant and advocate for people who might be struggling.
Long valued education, championing the development of early childhood education programs during his time in the State Senate, playing a large role in bringing Northern Oklahoma College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University to Enid and becoming one of the first members of OSU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
OLLI at OSU director Ruthann Sirbaugh said Long supplied many ideas for speakers and instructors and the program is grateful for his meaningful contributions over the years. She described him as an engaged learner who truly embraced the idea of lifelong learning.
United Way of Payne County Executive Director Sheri Carter first met Long when she joined the staff at United Way. She describes him as a faithful supporter who hosted functions at his home and encouraged others to give generously.
“He was generous with his money and he was generous with his time,” Carter said. “He was just so strong-headed about things he believed in and it was awesome to witness.”
She also came to know him as a member of First United Methodist Church where he put sweat equity into Stillwater, his adopted community, by serving at the community dinner each Thursday night.
“He always rolled his sleeves up,” Carter said. “I don’t think he ever missed. Ever.”
Rev. Mike Chaffin of First United Methodist Church describes him as a very active member who had a tremendous heart for caring for people, especially people who might be overlooked for various reasons, and was always encouraging the church to help others.
“Regardless of socio-economic background, regardless of nationality, regardless of skin color, he was always welcoming people with open arms and encouraging them to get involved in the life of the church,” Chaffin said.
Family was important to Long and he maintained close relationships with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but also made time for his siblings and his extended family.
Long’s Facebook account is covered with photos of a him smiling and posing with all of them.
His cousin, John Mills, has fond memories of going to visit Long’s family in Garber to plow and cut wheat. They stayed close over the years and frequently traveled to the Long family reunion together.
“His grandchildren were very important to him,” Mills said. “He was a family man and he really cared about community. He was very giving, very motivated and very high energy.”
Mills said that when Long was young, he wanted to go to Africa as a missionary.
He would eventually fulfill that dream in his own way, helping and mentoring students attending Oklahoma State University from all over the world, including various African nations.
He also traveled in 2013 with a group from the Methodist church to the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of a Water4 team that hand-dug water wells in several villages.
Long knew the life-chancing impact having easy access to clean, safe water would make in a country where modern water filtration systems are lacking and half of all children die before age 6 from water-related diseases like cholera and typhoid fever.
He also began devoting himself to an educational exchange program called Dawn in the Congo that provides expertise from faculty in OSU’s school of agriculture to increase the country’s food supply.
“His dream was that eventually that nation would be able to produce an abundance of food for its people and the people of the world,” Chaffin said.
Programs like Dawn in the Congo helped Long combine several of his passions: Reaching across barriers, serving others and Oklahoma State University.
Attending OSU is sort of a Long family tradition.
“He bled orange,” Mills said. “He had a car with orange stripes and OSU all over his yard.”
Long’s daughter Stacia Long Glavas told the Enid News and Eagle the family is seeing evidence of how much her father affected others around the globe.
“Just incredible worldwide (impact). People all over the world are writing and sending letters,” she said.
Long had a successful career in politics and understood what it took to get things done, but Mills says it wasn’t something he did selfishly.
“He loved politics but he loved it as a means of helping others,” Mills said. “It wasn’t for himself.”
Former State Sen. Paul Muegge of Tonkawa served in the Oklahoma Senate with Long but their connection went back much further. The two men had been friends since they were FFA kids living in adjacent counties and showing livestock together. He says Long is one of the people who encouraged his to run for a Senate seat.
“Ed was one of those who when he locked onto something, he didn’t let go,” Muegge said. “He did his research. We took our job really seriously.”
The men stayed in touch over the years, often visiting when they saw each other at OSU women’s basketball games.
Muegge went to see Long last week as hospice was coming in and his time was growing short.
“We said, ‘We’ve had good lives, good experiences, we accomplished some things and even if a lot of people don’t remember them, we can be proud of them,’” Muegge said. “Ed was a very caring person and when he saw something he thought needed some attention, he was there.”
Muegge said he couldn’t bring himself to say goodbye when he left that day.
“Sometimes it’s better that way,” he said. “Ed was a great, great, friend and a life well lived.”
Carter said she received a constant stream of texts and messages beginning early in the morning as word spread of Long’s death.
“That really let’s you know the impact,” she said. “We just lost such a presence...He never stopped fighting for what he believed and I think we could all take a lesson from that.”