September 9th, 1941 - March 27th, 2017
Dennis Lee Long, beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle, brother, church elder, and friend; teacher, painter, sculptor, poet, and musician, died on March 27, 2017. He was 75.
Dennis was born in Forest Grove, Oregon to Gorman Eldon Long, and Norma Mae Bailey Long on September 9, 1941, joining his older brother, Gorman Bruce Long. He spent his first 6 years in Oregon, where his brother Bruce wrassled a goat to save Dennis from being gored. The family moved to Seattle in 1947. Beginning at age 12, he earned enough money on a paper route to buy his first set of drums, and through his teen years, he worked in clubs as a jazz drummer.
In his youth, Dennis was known by other parents as a bad influence. Under his leadership, he and his friends rode the Ballard drawbridge as it was raised, rolled logs on the Lake Washington Ships Canal, and hopped freight trains. In elementary school though he was dyslexic, he had a photographic memory, and learned to read by memorizing the appearance of words. After that, he would often get in trouble for reading in class and he said he read every book in the school library. He was also reprimanded for finishing assignments before the teacher had finished passing them out to other students. He attended Ballard High School.
Because he was so filthy from pile driving, Dennis couldn’t ride the bus home from work, so he bought his first motorcycle, which became a life long passion. Soon after, he was in a catastrophic accident that nearly cost him his leg. Miki Balogh nursed him through his recovery, and they eventually married.
They moved to Portland, and then to San Francisco. There, he worked as a cook, played in the Ph Factor Jug Band, which opened for the Doors, among others. They were a part of the Haight-Ashbury counterculture, but they left before the Summer of Love.
They moved to Virginia City, which at the time was a ghost town, filled with hippies squatting and making music. For a time, he worked as a prison guard, where he smoked pot and read poetry in the guard tower. Famously, he stole a man’s tin roof, but was not arrested, because it he had put the roof on the deputy sheriff’s house.
In 1966, Dennis and Miki moved to New Mexico, where their first daughter, Goldberry, was born at home in El Rito. For a time, they traveled back and forth to the west coast so Dennis could continue with the Ph Factor Jug Band.
In 1968, they lived in the woods of Oregon to be extras on the set of Paint Your Wagon. Their son, Joe, was born in a tipi beside a creek. Dennis delivered Joe without assistance.
In 1969, they briefly lived at the commune New Buffalo. A pig named Kiss Me was intended to be food, and there was a lengthy communal discussion about whether Kiss Me had a soul, and whether it was moral to eat meat. The discussion went on so long that Dennis found it tiresome, so he went out and shot the pig. Having demonstrated that they weren’t suited to communal living, Dennis and Miki moved to a house in Arroyo Hondo, where their third child, Keja, was born.
Around 1970, he played with Bo Diddley at Old Martinez Hall.
Dennis returned to college at Highlands University, and after years of commuting (including hitchhiking through the snow), he earned his degree in education in 1974. He worked as a fourth grade teacher at Taos Elementary School and Da na hazli Elementary school and is still remembered fondly by students from those days. In 1976, the birth of his son Daniel was announced over the school intercom. Later, he earned an MA in education.
In 1978, Dennis and Miki separated, and he moved to Orlando, Florida in 1980, where he worked for 17 years as an elementary school teacher.
In 1998, Dennis received a liver transplant. This life-saving gift allowed him to reconnect with the love of his life, Janet LaFaille, also an elementary school teacher. They had met in the seventies, but had not been in touch since. After vigorously wooing her via email, Dennis finally managed to make a date in 2001. He drove 2 hours to Oakland to take her to the Pasta Pelican in Alameda, had dinner, and drove two hours back, though he would have married her on the spot if she would have had him. They married in 2004. They moved to Taos, New Mexico in 2006, where they have lived since and where Janet teaches at Enos Garcia Elementary School. Janet’s children are LaDonna, Carrie, and Tommy and her grandchildren are Christina, Faith, Felix, Ella, and Wesley.
Dennis spent his retirement years painting, sculpting, recording music, writing poetry, and loving Janet. He was visited often by his children, especially Daniel (who teaches at Taos High), his wife Nova, and his grandson Ivan who live nearby, and his many grandchildren, Jasmine, Duncan, Emma, Chase, Honor, Riley, and Max and also by his brother, Bruce.
Dennis was a rascal from start to finish. He could recite poems by heart, was incredibly well read, and played at least 5 instruments. He was a hilarious, mesmerizing storyteller. At times, his stories were so outrageous they were nearly beyond belief. His family has fact checked everything recorded here, but if anything proves to be inaccurate, it is in keeping with his outsized spirit. He did indeed loom large, but he was also a tender-hearted man, who was never quite convinced that he was good enough but was devoted to God and faithfully served his community. His dearest wish was to be valued, respected, and loved. He was valued. He was respected. And he was adored beyond measure.
Ride that rising bridge, Dad. Let it lift you where you are going.
|Date of Birth
||September 9th, 1941
|Date of Death
||March 27th, 2017