John R. Long, Jr., 95, passed away peacefully at his home in Jackson on May 26, 2020.
John was born in Jackson October 4, 1924, the only child of John R. and Evie Long, and was a lifelong resident of Madison County. He attended Jackson schools, and graduated in 1943 from Steele High School. Part of the Greatest Generation, two weeks after graduation he entered the U.S. Navy. In 1936 he was baptized into Christ at West Jackson Baptist Church, but at his marriage placed membership at First Christian Church, where he was a member for over 75 years.
In 1939, the city of Jackson held an event called “Jackson Through The Years”, which involved many of the school children of the city, telling Jackson’s history. While practicing for that, on April 23 of that year, Johnny met a little black haired beauty named Betty June Wayne, and immediately announced his intentions to marry her someday. Two days later, they had their first date, and from that moment on his life would be forever changed. He and Betty dated through school, and on January 22, 1943, they slipped away to Corinth, Mississippi, with their friends Allen and Helen Hight, to marry.
On entering the Navy, John was first assigned to yeoman duty at Great Lakes Naval Station, but later volunteered for active sea duty. He served in the Navy Armed Guard on the gun crew of the ship Seatrain Texas, and was discharged as a 3rd Class Petty Officer the day after Christmas, 1945.
After coming home, John returned to work for the Western Union Telegraph Agency, the job he held prior to leaving. In 1948, he joined his father, a career firefighter, in working for the Jackson Fire Department, and remained there for almost five years until his Dad’s death in 1952. During that time he also owned and ran Long’s Grocery and Market. In 1955, he began working for Blue Cross Blue Shield, a job he held for 38 years, calling on hospitals throughout West and Middle Tennessee. More than once, he declined promotions to remain in Jackson to raise his family and live.
During many of those years, John also preached at numerous Christian Churches throughout West Tennessee, while serving at various times as youth director, teacher of the Christian Builders Sunday School class, and as an elder, at First Christian Church in Jackson. He was strongly influenced and encouraged in this by Bro. R.J. Birge, who he loved dearly and saw as something of a father figure to him. In 1971, he and Betty purchased the Bible Book Store, and operated it for over 20 years until their retirement, serving the needs of Christians and churches throughout West Tennessee. After most of their children had grown, they began to travel extensively, and were able to enjoy many trips to Europe, Japan, the Holy Land, North Africa, and much of the United States.
For many years, John also served as a special assistant to Santa Claus, making many appearances on his behalf in the Jackson area. He especially relished events alongside his longtime friend, Cousin Tuny.
Although he had only been a firefighter for a few years, it was a love that never quite left him, and in 1983 John began to collect fire memorabilia. As a child, he had hung out at the fire station where his Dad worked, and even 50 years later, he still enjoyed it. He soon became known locally as the man with the antique fire trucks, and built a personal museum for his large collection. Through his travels, he made friends with many firefighters worldwide, some of whom visited him in Jackson. He was the subject of several news stories and local television interviews about Jackson fire history, a love he always held. He loved being something of a mascot for the Jackson Fire Department. In 1996, he portrayed Dr. William E. Butler, the Father of Jackson, in a living history presentation, and for several years afterward enjoyed making appearances to give first person accounts of the history of Jackson.
In 1976, he and Betty built their dream home north of town, and cherished 40 years living there together in their country home, with countless pets and the exotic animals that John collected. He and Betty were married for over 74 years until her death in August of 2017. Now they will never be separated again.
In addition to his beloved Betty June and his parents, John was preceded in death by his oldest daughter Kathy Long Moorman. He is survived by his children Michael Long and wife Teresa of Jackson, Ellen Stafford and husband Tony of Holladay, Kerry Carroll and husband Bob of Lavinia, Ricky Long and wife Brenda of Jackson, Dr. Daniel Long of Tokyo, and David Long of Jackson, and his son in law Bill Moorman and wife Marilyn of Florida. He is also survived by 15 grandchildren, 31 great grandchildren, and 10 great, great grandchildren, with 4 more due this year. God truly blessed Betty and John richly.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
Visitation will be held from 5:00-7:00 p.m. on Friday, May 29, at Arrington Funeral Directors. Private services for the family will be held graveside, with burial on the family plot at Ridgecrest Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any memorials be made either to the Gary Sinese Foundation, or to Brightstone.org.