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Obituary: Donald Berton Long


December 10, 2021

Barnum native and Pearl Harbor veteran Don Long passed away peacefully on August 16, 2021, in his home in Napa. He was born on June 22, 1921, the eldest son of Anna and Bert Long, in St. Cloud and was preceded in death by his brothers Jack, Ken and Dick, his sisters Joan and Gladys and his wife of 64 years, Madeline Long.

Don was 100 years old, a member of the "greatest generation," and enjoyed many events celebrating WWII veterans during the last decade of his life, including being honored in the Pine Knot News and Cloquet July Fourth parade as a Pearl Harbor veteran.

After graduating from Barnum High School he hitchhiked to California to find work, and, when he couldn't, he joined the Navy in March of 1941. On Dec 7, 1941, he was sitting in a seaplane on Kaneohe Bay (across the island from Pearl Harbor) when it was strafed and caught fire, for which he was later awarded the Purple Heart.

Don met his wife, Madeline Anderson, at a roller skating rink in Oakland, California when he was at radio school in Alameda. They married in October of 1943 at the Navy chapel in Pensacola, Florida when Don was in flight training. He got his wings on Christmas Eve of 1943.

He flew the Atlantic Barrier flights between Newfoundland, Iceland and the Azores in the early 1960s, part of the Early Warning system.

He retired as commander in 1962, taught woodworking at El Cajon High School, and in the mid-1970s used his piloting and naval skills to captain private fishing boats in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, sailing or flying clients down from Coronado where he and Madeline retired. They moved to Napa in 1991 to be closer to their grandsons.

Don was cremated at Tulocay in the company of those grandsons, Andrew Long MacLaggan and Benjamin Long Miles, and Andrew's wife Shawny MacLaggan, his great-grandsons Brannon and Corran Long MacLaggan, his daughter Kit Long, and a family friend, Peggy Parrott.

Don loved camping and enjoyed taking the boys on summer camping road trips back to Minnesota, teaching them to fish, light fires with flint and swim in lakes. He amazed family and friends by continuing those trips on his own as recently as 2017 when he was 96, and mastering the technology for keeping in touch on his cell phone. Eventually unable to travel so far, he often took local drives to enjoy the scenery and wildlife around the Napa Valley. He was a skilled woodworker, and played the guitar, ukulele and accordion.

He was cared for in his home by his grandson, Ben. Though not able to play as actively with his great-grandsons, he always enjoyed having their noisy happiness nearby. He had many visitors, both old friends and new ones from his recent role as a celebrated Pearl Harbor veteran, as well as caregivers who enjoyed his conversations and interest in their lives.

A memorial service with military honors was held in September at the Napa Yacht Club.

Pine Knot News, Dec. 10, 2021


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