Remembering Dan Long

Dan Long — noted artist, beloved diving coach, civic volunteer and longtime Westporter — died last month, while on vacation in Italy with his wife Priscilla.

They celebrated their 45th anniversary last summer. Dan would have been 71 years old on June 10. His daughter Kerry, and son-in-law David Roth, are co-directors of Staples Players.

Dan and Priscilla Long (Photo/Kerry Long)

Priscilla shares these remembrances of Dan, with his many friends and fans.

Dan Long was a good Midwestern guy. He was born on June 10, 1948, and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Son of a talented well-known regional landscape and portrait artist, Dan was exposed to art early in life. He also spent much time in the woods with his dad and brother Steve, learning to use their rifles and hunt food for dinner. It was a typical 1950’s way of life in Michigan.

Dan was a great swimmer. He took advantage of his small physique and started diving for his high school swim team. He was an amazing, fearless diver who was elected to the all-state team during his senior year at Ottawa Hills High School. He was the undefeated city diving champion. Dan loved Coach Collins.

Dan couldn’t afford a 4-year university, so after graduation in 1966 he went to the local junior college. He transferred to the University of Michigan for the remainder of his college career, and graduated with a BS in design in 1972.

A few days after graduation, Dan packed up his 1965 Fiat and drove east to New Haven. An ad firm there had offered him a job, based on a class project Dan had completed for Olin Skis. So began his 30-year career as adman (creative director).

Dan Long (Photo/Kerry Long)

Dan’s work spanned many agencies including NW Ayer, BBDO, Backer and Spielvogel, Lintas and Grey. He traveled the world creating award-winning TV commercials for the US Army, Lowenbrau, Miller Beer, Dodge, GE, Diet Coke, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Campbell Soup, Starburst candy, Hasbro Toys and many others.

Although Dan was working and traveling during all those years, he still found time to draw and paint – often winning awards at the shows he entered.

This all ended abruptly in 2001 – and that is when Dan ‘s life really began.

He managed to create his own business and secure a lucrative account so that the bills could get paid and food was on the table. But he also took a giant leap of faith in 2003, when someone he met at a party in Fairfield learned he had been a diver, and said that Fairfield Ludlowe and Warde High Schools needed a coach.

Remembering how much he loved Coach Collins, as well as how much he loved flying through the air diving, he jumped in. He started coaching for Fairfield immediately, both girls and boys.

The following year he added the University of Bridgeport, plus a summer club or two. He was hooked. And what a coach he was!

A couple of years later, he added Staples High School to his plate. For many years he coached all 3 boys and girls  high school teams – even though they were competitors.

Dan Long, with 3 Staples High School divers.

It was his glory. He thrived, and the kids did as well. There is no question that coaching was what Dan was born to do. He cared about the whole kid: Not just their dives, but what was going on in their lives – their families, their hopes and dreams. He connected with kids on so many levels. It was wonderful to watch.

Aside from coaching and advertising, Dan dove headfirst into his art. He joined Rowayton Art Center, the Carriage Barn in New Canaan, and most recently the Artists’ Collective of Westport. He often won awards for his intricate drawings of old, gnarly trees (which he drew to come to terms with his own aging).

“Strangled Web,” by Dan Long

Dan also was an active member of Saugatuck Congregational Church. He served as a deacon for nearly 8 years. Most recently, he was vice moderator.

Dan was a good, kind Midwestern guy, with a great twinkle in his blue eyes. He loved beauty, nature, and most of all his family. His granddaughter Lucy was his heart.

(A memorial service for Dan Long is set for Saturday, June 15, 11 a.m. at Greens Farms Congregational Church. A reception will follow directly afterward, at Saugatuck Congregational Church. His art will be on display there.

(In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Saugatuck Congregational Church for Missions Work, 245 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880, or Staples Tuition Grants in memory of Dan Long, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.)

Fellow Arts Collective member Miggs Burroughs adds:

I am proud to call myself one of Dan Long’s newest best friends. I met him only 7 or 8 years ago, but he had a great knack for making everyone he liked feel like family.

He created amazing pen and ink drawings of trees in crazy minute detail,  perhaps because he himself was a mighty oak of a man. Not necessarily a “towering” oak, (forgive me Dan), but a mighty one to be sure.

Sturdy and robust, he stood tall against so many of life’s challenges. Oak trees are not meant to disappear overnight. It is still so hard to believe that this man of such considerable talent, loyalty and kindness has left us.

His roots ran deep in the community, through his family, his church, the diving  team, and the Artists Collective of Westport, which cherished his dedication to the group (and his devilish sense of humor). We are all heartbroken.

15 responses to “Remembering Dan Long

  1. Dan was always smiling and always so positive. We would see him on The Staples Swim Team Swim Deck cheering the girls on for every meet – the kids loved him.

    Rest in Peace Dan – your kindness will be remembered by all us..

  2. Dan was an amazing guy and wonderful friend. He was also a very significant presence in the congregation – at Saugatuck Congregational Church. He made friends with everyone very easily. I know how fortunate we felt to just hang around with him at church or socially. How lucky we all are to have known Dan!

  3. Kirsten Woods

    Dan was a one of a kind amazing human being. I had the pleasure of his acquaintance through both the girls and boys swim and dive teams. He was genuinely supportive of all members of both teams, not just the divers. He will be greatly missed are remembered with unparalleled fondness, Rest in peace and rise in glory!

  4. Anne Rutherford

    Priscilla and Kerry,
    While I never knew Dan well, as a fellow parent over many years when Meghan and Kerry were classmates, I so well remember his kind and open face, the warmth he displayed and his obviously love for both of you. I would guess he would consider that his greatest legacy.
    My heart goes out to both of you.
    Anne Rutherford
    Meghan Fenn Vogt’s Mom

  5. Sal Liccione

    He was a great and him and his wife really cAred for Westport all the peaple he lives bye and what a great heart

  6. I didn’t know Dan, but I wish I had. This was a lovely tribute to an obviously lovely man. It brought a tear to my eye.

  7. Total shock, sadness, gratitude and admiration.

    He was a great guy. A role model to many, myself included. – Chris Woods

  8. Susan Iseman

    I still am in utter disbelief. This is a beautiful tribute to his multi faceted life. No doubt Dan’s absence will be felt by many.

  9. Kate Littman Greenberg

    This is a beautiful tribute to a truly inspiring
    person. You were one of the good guys, Dan, and my family and I will miss the twinkle in your eye, your quick wit and bright smile.

  10. Cay Carrubba

    Thank you for sharing Dan your husband with the world. He sounds like an amazing, kind, and talented man. He surely will be missed my all who knew him. For you Priscilla I wish peace and a continuing love and blessings from Dan your man. Thanks again for sharing. Great

  11. Beatrice Murray

    Beautiful words. Beautiful tribute. Love Bea

  12. Kristin Schneeman

    I also did not not know Dan long or well, but this news shocked and saddened me. He was definitely one of those rare individuals who left an imprint on the world, his community, and the people he cane in contact with. I will certainly never forget his warmth, wit, complete lack of pretension – and how much he obviously adored his wife. He is gone too soon and will be very much missed.

  13. Fred Cantor

    Fascinating—I had never heard of someone coaching three different school teams in the same league at the same time but that distinction obviously speaks volumes about the kind of person Dan was.

    What a beautiful tribute to someone who seemed to be a modern-day Renaissance man.

  14. Jeanine Oburchay

    Dan and I coached some of the same kids (he in HS, me in age group), and we both coached HS kids who competed with one another. He was gracious, generous and kind, always. And he always cheered on every diver – not just his own. His demeanor and coaching style speaks volumes about the man he was. And he always brought out the best in the people around him. From the time we met in 2005, I considered him a friend, and will miss him dearly.

  15. Kim Mathias

    Kids responded to the welcoming and accepting spirit in Dan. As a teacher at Saugatuck Congregational Church I observed him as a confirmation mentor interacting with 8th and 9th graders. What an impact he made by just listening and giving teens a safe space to consider their faith. Dan made no secret of the fact that he was puzzling along with them, that he was on the same faith journey. Dan’s legacy of kindness, creativity and care for the community is a guide to how we might honor him on our journey.