On Sept. 1, doctors told Herbert S. Long -- a 53-year-old Savage resident known by his first initial, H -- that a cancerous tumor had spread to his liver and he had six months to live.
Despite the tragic news, Long wanted a chance to fulfill a dream he has had for years: The self-taught watercolorist wanted his little-known art collection to be shown in a gallery.
With help from a former neighbor, state Del. Shane Pendergrass, and Historic Savage Mill, Long got his wish. His colorful paintings of old houses and commercial buildings with unusual architecture or appeal were moved from the walls of his Savage home and are on display in the mill's gallery.
Pendergrass, a Howard Democrat who helped arrange the show at the mill and who is a painter herself, said: "It's a very special thing to be able to see work you've done on display. H wanted to see it all together, and he also wanted his friends to see it.
"But the bottom line is, H is not going to live very long. It makes me think about all kinds of other people who may be struggling, too."
Long first was diagnosed with melanoma 4 1/2 years ago. Doctors removed a tumor from his back, and everyone thought Long was fully recovered -- until May, when the tumor reappeared.
"It just came back one day out of nowhere," Long said. "It had spread all around my neck. There's no effective chemotherapy for melanoma."
In August, doctors said the cancer had spread to his liver and the next month warned him that he had just six months to live.
But he tries not to focus on his condition. Instead, he focuses on his wife, Ellen, and children, Joshua, 25, and Eliza, 21. And he focuses on his beloved artwork.
"I need to get back to work, more painting," Long said.
He has loved art since he was a child traveling with his Army father from country to country.
Having studied at the University of Maryland satellite campus in Munich, Germany, Long came to Maryland and attended the University of Maryland College Park, but he never finished. Instead, he became a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, delivering mail for 28 years in the Greenbelt area.
About 20 years ago, the Longs moved to Savage. Off and on, he would grab his paints and put brush to canvas.
Four years ago, he began painting regularly in his studio -- a glass-enclosed porch atop his Savage home.
"I sit up there and look around, look at my domain," Long said. He also keeps his eyes peeled while on trips around town and across the country.
"I'll see some place that looks neat," Long said. "Then I'll get a camera. I like old buildings. I like things that have stood the tests of time things that are interesting, that have character."
He has paintings of old ranch houses, of old stores and other commercial buildings. He also has painted such simple subjects as a chair in his back yard.
For years, these pieces have hung in his home. But he wanted a chance to show the world.
His son, Joshua, searched for a place that would show his father's work. Most galleries turned Long down because he is not an established artist. Others said they wouldn't have space soon enough.
Then in October, Pendergrass called to ask if there was anything she could do for the family during its troubled time. Being a painter, Pendergrass understood Long's desire to have a show. Savage Mill seemed the ideal location.
Managers of the mill agreed and quickly arranged for the display at its gallery.
"We hadn't even seen Herbert's work," said Joan Bevelaqua, director of the gallery and a watercolor artist. "When I walked into his house and saw the paintings, I cried. It was beautiful."
Added mill managing consultant Steven Adler: "It really just seemed appropriate for the mill to do it. They've been a longtime part of Savage, and they're wonderful folks."
A week ago, the show opened. More than 200 family, friends, government officials and well-wishers attended the party.
Since then, 20 pieces have been sold, but the Long family plans to keep most of the art.
"We view it as being a celebration of H's life, as his legacy to us," his wife said.
Long's paintings will be on display at the mill gallery through Jan. 3 at Historic Savage Mill, 8600 Foundry St. The mill is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Pub Date: 12/13/96