Drury "Dean" Long died November 21, 2006 in Thousand Palms, California
He was a high school teacher for me, and one on whom I modeled many of my own teaching techniques. The one high school teacher I had who was so powerful and communicated so much to me, I didn't meet another on his level until I got into my MFA program at Arkansas and met Jim Whitehead.
I took every literature class Mr. Long taught, and my senior year I was a T.A. for those same classes, just so I'd have an excuse to sit through them again. I'll never forget Mr. Long saying there was no point in reading all the footnotes on T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," since most of them referenced Sir James Frasier's "The Golden Bough" anyway. He said just go to "The Golden Bough" instead, and he did, introducing us to archetypal and mythological literary criticism at the high school level.
Oh, and going on 30 years later, I still have those classical lit notes, and found them the other day, while packing for my next move. So bite me, Edith Hamilton. I never needed you. [grin]
I didn't realize until I got to college lit classes and discovered none of my classmates had ever heard about any of that stuff that it was anything out of the ordinary. We finally did get to it in college, but not until my SENIOR year, in the upper division literary criticism course for English majors (and I wasn't even technically an English major, so don't ask me what I was doing in there. I ended up three credits short of a double major with Journalism/English, just because I was obsessed with Emily Dickinson and decided to do an independent study on her instead of that last required course for the major).
I took Mr Long's drama classes too, although I didn't do so well at those. I was too much of a "speech student" to lose myself in the parts the way he wanted me to. He gave me a shot at "Mammy Yokum" in "Lil' Abner," tho, even though our musical never made it to the stage that year.
I never got the part I really wanted in "The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-on-the-Moon-Marigolds," so I became the stage manager instead. It was a crazy schedule, because I was also on the basketball team, so I'd get to school really early, write my newspaper stories, go to classes, then basketball practice, and then late play practice.
The only way I could do it was because Mr. Long actually lived out my way, almost to Wasilla, and he'd give me a ride home, often not until 11 pm when we got done. Then I'd get up the next day and do it again. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything, though, because I got a rare treat. On the way home, Mr. Long would go over that night's rehearsal with me and ask my opinion about what was working and what wasn't. He really listened to my ideas and even ended up incorporating some of them into the play. I'm sure he never knew how much that meant to me, to be treated with such respect and have my ideas valued that way, by someone I thought so highly of.
We didn't always get along so agreeably, and I think he even gave me a C in drama one semester. But "Gamma Rays" was a really neat time, and an amazing play. I've seen many productions over the years, and it always amazes me to see higher level and even professional productions that fall short of performances I saw Mr. Long get out of high school students.
And I still have my copy of "The Golden Bough," even if archetypal literary criticism is now out of fashion. I use it in other ways now, with Tarot cards. And I do still read Edith Hamilton's "Mythology," when I need to bone up a bit.
Dean Long, 78
Drury "Dean" Long, 78, of Palmer died Nov. 21, 2006, at his winter residence in Thousand Palms, Calif.
A celebration of life for friends in the community who would like to share memories will be held in spring, when he normally would have returned. An announcement will be published beforehand.
Mr. Long was born May 8, 1928, to Lucinda and Floyd Long in Hindsboro, Ill., and was reared in Illinois.
An educator who taught in Missouri, California and Alaska, Mr. Long was respected by his students and fellow teachers. He retired after teaching English and drama for several years at Palmer High School. He also led the production of numerous plays and musicals at the high school and in community theater.
Family wrote: "Dean touched the lives of many, many students and community members who participated as actors or in other capacities in one or more of the myriad dramatic productions that he directed and produced.
"Subsequent to his retirement, he traveled extensively with his wife Jean, and became an avid writer, joining writing groups and publishing several works. He continued to write until his final illness and leaves a novel ready for editing and submission.
"Dean was also an avid golfer who traveled to play the finest courses in America and abroad and as a lover of flying, he flew his own plane in Alaska, Canada and the Lower 48.
"Dean will be forever missed by his family, friends and former students who valued his company and counsel."
He is survived by his wife, Jean Long; son, Gary; grandson, Christopher; granddaughter, Donna Jean Kramer; great-grandson, Ethan Kramer; and sisters and brothers, Dorothy Koelsch, Garnet Kincaid, Paul Long and John Long.