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Denman Murray Long

Denman Murray Long Obituary
Denman Murray Long

Shreveport - Denman Murray Long, 94, died peacefully in his home in Shreveport, LA, on Sunday, September 2, 2018. A Rosary service in his honor will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, September 7, at the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans Catholic Church located at 939 Jordan Street in Shreveport. A private burial is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 8, followed by a Memorial Mass which is open to all at 11:00 a.m. at the Cathedral. A reception will be held at St. John's Parish Hall next door to the church immediately after the service.

Born June 3, 1924, Denman Long, "Denny" to all who knew him, was the only son of Frank E. Long of Johnson County, WY, and the former Kate Denman of Whitewood, SD. Denny and his younger sister, Kay, grew up in and around Buffalo, WY, the Johnson County seat near where their paternal grandfather settled in 1881 after emigrating from Ireland's Dingle Peninsula.

Like his father before him, Denny spent his childhood living and working on the family's cattle and sheep ranch outside Buffalo in the shadow of the Big Horn Mountains. Despite its many hardships—no electricity, indoor plumbing or central heat among them—life on the ranch taught Denny invaluable lessons of independence, responsibility and resourcefulness that he carried with him throughout his life.

At age 11, Denny moved with his family into town so he and his sister could attend public school. Denny excelled academically and proved to be an enthusiastic athlete who made up in spirit what he lacked in size and skill. Still small for his age in high school, he quickly became the football team's most valuable asset when the coach realized Denny was the only kid on the team who could remember the plays.

After finishing high school in three years, Denny won an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and after brief stints in preparatory schools, he arrived in 1944 as a proud if lowly plebe. 1944-48 were exciting years to be a West Point cadet. Yes, the Yanks had won the war, but just as impressive was Army's football team which was #1 in the country, losing only twice in four years. While not a varsity player himself, Denny spent his senior year as the official rider of Army's mule mascot, Mr. Jackson, and together, they ran (or trotted) more yards than any 2-legged player on the team. As Denny would later explain, who else but a rancher's son from Wyoming was best qualified for the honor of hauling ass up and down the field?

Like every USMA graduate, Denny considered his time at West Point to be the most pivotal and influential of his life. He loved the academic challenges and the Military Academy's emphasis on service, personal responsibility and excellence in every endeavor. Denny appreciated the hard lessons in discipline and order, and how the unique shared experiences bonded him to his fellow graduates, many of whom remained lifelong friends, especially Harry Bettis, Tom Bullock, Otis Moore, Curly Mounger and Ken Ruddy.

Upon graduation in 1948, Denny enlisted in the Army Air Corps, earning his wings flying B-29s and B-50s at Lackland AFB in San Antonio. As a bomber pilot, Denny flew training missions all over the world, including the Air Force's first secret tests of ground-based, radar-controlled bombs. Denny kept his pilot's license for years afterwards and enjoyed scaring the hell out of his kids and their friends by flying them to visit colleges.

By 1953 Denny was an air commander at Barksdale Air Force Base when he met and married the former Mary C. O'Brien. He soon retired from the service, settled down in Shreveport and embarked on a long, distinguished career in the oil and gas industry. A notoriously unpredictable business—he and some partners once drilled 35 straight dry holes—Denny worked with and learned from some of the best independent oilmen in the business, including his father-in-law, R.J. O'Brien, Sr, at Jones-O'Brien, Inc. In 1982, Denny formed his own company, Long Petroleum, and continued going to the office every day well past his 93rd birthday.

Denny and Mary's 65-year marriage was not only long but fruitful. They were blessed with seven children and 11 grandchildren—son Michael, his wife Dorothy and their children Meaghan, Patricia (husband John Barkowski) and Denman; son Kevin, his wife Jeanne and their children Connor (wife Allison) and Francis; daughter Katsey; son Raymond; son Patrick (deceased 2016), his wife Nancy and their children Aidan, Grace, Olivia and Parrish; son Brian; and daughter Caroline and her children Liam and Bridget Blackwell.

For years Denny was the only adult male in the extended Ray O'Brien family and he truly cared for the O'Brien nieces, nephews, cousins and their families, with a particular soft spot for Mary Frances Loftus Coleman, the only child of Mary's sister, Patsy O'Brien. Denny loved being the patriarch of this unruly brood, and he and Mary made clear their unconditional love, support and respect for every member of their large and grateful family.

Admittedly, the Long household was a master class in barely-controlled chaos. Their homes in Shreveport and Jackson Hole were favorite hangouts for their kids' friends, many of whom still consider themselves the family's honorary 8th child. Over the years the family took many epic vacations—the Yellowstone road trip of '66 with Mary, Denny and five of their six kids in a rented Winnebago was an early highlight (Mary flew home). Most gratifying were the family's many visits to Ireland where they reconnected with multiple generations of Long cousins and a few O'Brien gypsies.

Despite 65+ years in Louisiana, Denny always considered Wyoming his true home, and for over 30 years he and Mary generously shared their house in Jackson Hole with family and friends. Every year he visited his sister, Kay, and her four boys in Thermopolis and Buffalo, and he remained close to all his Wyoming cousins. As handsome as he was in his West Point uniform or a business suit, Denny truly was never more comfortable than in a jean jacket and worn Stetson under blue Wyoming skies.

Throughout his adult life, Denny honored the West Point's motto of duty, honor and country by his involvement with civic groups and organizations, including the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), the United Way and various other local and cultural institutions in both Louisiana and Wyoming. In his later years Denny was especially proud to be involved with West Point's Combatting Terrorism Center.

West Point was also where Denny converted to Catholicism, and his ever-deepening faith inspired him to give freely of his time and resources to the Catholic Church. For years he and Mary were actively involved with St. Joseph's Church and Grade School, as well as St. John's Cathedral in Shreveport where they led the fundraising and building of the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel. As a regular at daily mass at Holy Trinity downtown then at St. John's, Denny formed a special bond with his fellow attendees. He was especially proud to have spent two decades as president of the school board at Shreveport's Loyola Prep high school, signing over 2,000 graduate diplomas over the years.

In recognition of his extraordinary faith and religious dedication, Denny was made a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope John Paul II, and a Knight of Malta, an ancient Catholic order dedicated to service of the sick and needy. Through the Order of Malta, Denny made multiple trips to Lourdes, France, (the last at age 88), where he provided assistance to invalids making pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Denny and Mary's most personal project, St. Gerard House, is a non-profit school and service organization for families facing autism. Located in Hendersonville, NC, this vital community resource was founded by Caroline Long, Mary and Denny's youngest child, whose two children both have autism. Denny was tireless in his dedication to Caroline's remarkable organization, and the compassion he and Mary felt for the children and families of St. Gerard is indicative of the love and passion they had for all of their beloved grandchildren.

All in all, Denny Long lived a unique, even unlikely life with immeasurable reach and impact. His 94 years spanned one of the most vital, volatile and rapidly changing periods in history, and Denny kept up with every step. While his principles remained proudly old-fashioned, he embraced change without fear, confident that his faith and values would keep him righteous even if he wasn't always right (though according to him he always was).

Like his humble, hardworking forebears, Denny followed a set of simple but time-honored values: making the best of what one has doesn't mean settling for less; morals matter more than money; "needs" and "wants" should always be the same; and satisfaction is synonymous with success. As Denny understood it, wisdom is recognizing and appreciating what's timeless and true; and the richest rewards will be found in Heaven.

Through a long lifetime of honest words and honorable deeds, Denny personified the Golden Rule and set an exacting example—and impossibly high bar—for all us who loved him.

The family would like to thank the following for their tireless efforts on Denny and Mary's behalf: the miraculous Mariah Alexander, Mary Foster and Kecia Webb; the dedicated caregivers of Southern Ingenuity and nurses of Kindred Home Health; and the expert, thoughtful care of Dr. Rick Michael and Sheila Matthews of SureAccess MD. For those who wish to honor Denny's memory, please consider a donation to St. Gerard House, 620 Oakland St, Hendersonville, NC 28791 (www.stgerardhouse.org)
Published in Shreveport Times on Sept. 6, 2018
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