David Arthur Long
July 26, 1923 – May 12, 2020
On May 12, 2020, Capt. David Arthur Long, USN, died peacefully at the Fairfax Retirement Community of congestive heart failure. Despite Covid-19, two daughters were there, holding his hand as he died. Dave was born in Hots Springs, Montana on July 26, 1923. Two weeks after his birth, Dave’s family moved to Abilene, KS, where he enjoyed a huckleberry-like childhood: overturning outhouses on Halloween night; re-assembling the principal’s car on the top of the high school; stealing chickens, corn, and watermelon from a neighboring farmer for a feast on the banks of the river. Years later Dave confessed to the farmer, only to hear “Of course, I knew you and my nephew were the thieves. That is why I fired my gun. The shots made the chicken taste better.” But Dave’s childhood was more than play. His family did not have money, but they had books. Dave lived by his father’s adage: “If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right.” Dave’s older brothers already had distinguished themselves: one with a PhD in Organic Chemistry, one with a Master’s in Organic Chemistry, and one with an MD. Dave went to Kansas University and Kansas State, working his way through college.
Then the war came. Dave entered the V-12 Program, where the Navy stationed him on a destroyer in the Pacific. World War II helped Dave identify his career choice – to be a Naval Officer. The Navy was very good to him, stationing him in Charleston, SC where he met his future wife, Ruth Mengedoht, at a debutante ball. Dave could not take his eye off Ruth as she descended the stairs wearing a dragon dress that breathed with each breath Ruth took. Later that night, he discovered Ruth was as smart, as she was beautiful. They married on June 24, 1950, the day the Korean war started.Days into their honeymoon, Dave received orders to report to the West Coast where he sailed off to be part of the Inchon landing.
Again, the Navy took care of Dave – he was one of the first officers re-assigned from the Korean War. Dave and his new bride went to Monterey, CA, where he helped transform the old Del Monte Hotel into the Naval Post Graduate School. His next duty stations included Honolulu, HI; Norfolk, VA; and Galveston, TX, where he became the Executive Officer of the U.S.S. Wren – a destroyer that had a supporting role in the movie, Operation Petticoat. In 1960, Dave attended the Naval War College where he wrote a paper on the unique leadership of Josip Broz Tito. The Naval War College permanently archived the paper and requested Dave become part of its Staff. Joining the Staff of the Naval War College delayed the pinnacle of his Naval career – to command a destroyer, the U.S.S. Greene. Subsequent duty assignments involved the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic in Norfolk, VA; the Military Political Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations during the Vietnam War; and Commodore of Destroyer Division 222, which participated in operation UNITAS going around South America. Instead of returning to the Pentagon as a Senior Captain, Dave became Deputy Director of Naval History. No one realized historians needed management until he assumed the position. After retirement and a brief stint as an independent contractor for the Intelligence Community, Dave became the first Executive Director of the Naval Historical Foundation. Navy legends became close friends as Dave worked to preserve the Service’s Tradition and History. He helped convert Tingey House into the official residence for the Chief of Naval Operations; he helped transform the Navy museum. Dave and Ruth were consummate hosts, best known for their yearly New Year’s Day party straight from the Charleston Receipts cookbook with Roast Pork, Hoppin Johns, and Bennie Seed Cookies. Dave exceled at grilling. His definition of summertime eating was his famous barbequed chicken, white corn on the cob, and garden-fresh tomatoes. Dave’s love for cooking began as a two-year old child, watching his mother in the kitchen. He worked in a bakery as a teenager; lectured on cuts of beef at the Naval Post Graduate School; relied on his skills as an engineer to modify recipes, noting each change carefully in cookbooks; and used his grill throughout the winter. In fact, Dave added an outdoor room to the back of the house hoping to grill with a roof over his head only to discover the grill smoked people off the porch. Still, the outdoor room became the main venue for family functions and parties. Dave was also well known in his neighborhood through maintaining the community snow blower; sharing his famous barbeque; blowing up balls for neighborhood kids; and befriending a new neighbor – an Arab family who moved in one month after 9/11. Dave loved his house, maintaining it like one of his ships. But after a fall from the roof at the age of 82, Ruth talked Dave into moving to the Fairfax Retirement Community. Although reluctant to move, Dave loved the Fairfax and found a group of similarly situated individuals with whom to share war stories. He began volunteering by placing televisions in all the nursing rooms. In his nineties, Dave started a scooter program where people could check out scooters like books from a library. He repaired broken items at Red Tag, the charity within the Fairfax selling items residents no longer wanted. Dave could fix anything with his “glue pot” and a little saw dust. No obituary properly can capture Dave’s life. Examples of the things missing from this obituary are: Mrs. Eisenhower, the mother of Ike, frequently babysat Dave. The Eisenhowers lived two doors away from his Grandfather Hahn and attended the same church. Indeed, Ike and Dave’s Uncle John were boyhood friends and, because of Uncle John, Ike ended up at West Point instead of the Naval Academy. Dave negotiated with the British Government to create a Naval base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. In a crowded room for a fundraiser, Liz Taylor approached Dave, asking “for a light.” Liz had good taste. Ruth, Dave’s beloved wife, predeceased him after 63-years of marriage. Dave is survived by one sister Dorothy Porter; two daughters Eve Lyon (Geoffrey) and Catherine Spicer (Robert); four grandchildren Robert Spicer IV (Eva), Jeremy Spicer, Rebekah Tansey (Sean), and David Spicer (Jennifer); and four great-grandchildren Robert Spicer, Keith Spicer, Darcy Tansey, and Liam Tansey.
Private funeral services will be held at Arlington Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to Capital Caring.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
David Arthur Long
May 26, 2020
I participed in a large email group with Dave for several years at The Fairax. He always had insightful comments be it poltics, world affairs, history or the weather. I also saw his reaching out to others in repairing or finding scooters and other helpful items.
May 26, 2020
Eve, Geoff, Cathy and Robert, you did your Father proud with the beautiful obituary which brings him to life in the stories, people and places that shaped his life. You are blessed to have had him in your life, although loss is never ever easy. He raised you in his likeness, which is what makes you also so very amazing and loving people. Thank you for being in my life. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
Robin J Frank
May 25, 2020
Dear Eve, Dorothy & all of the the members of Dave Long's family,
I feel like I know Dave having heard such wonderful stories about him from his wonderful daughter, my good friend Eve and now from reading about him & seeing the many family photographs. I'm sorry that I never met him.
May your memories of him help you find peace and comfort in the coming days.
Warmly, Robin J