Harold and Louise Long

The Baltimore Sun

Harold E. "Flea" and Louise B. Long, longtime Lutherville residents, died within days of each other and the celebration of their wedding anniversary.

"They would have been married 57 years on Sept. 12," said their daughter, Janine E. Leckrone of White Hall and New York City.

"We had just returned from a two-week family vacation in Bethany, and given the circumstances, they really enjoyed it," she said. "It was a great time. We cooked and played puzzles, and they enjoyed just having the whole family around."

Mr. Long, who had been a political aide to three Baltimore County executives and earlier worked as a salesman, died Thursday of a perforated bowel at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was 78.

Mrs. Long, a retired Baltimore County government administrative assistant and avid gardener, died Sunday of pancreatic cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care. She was 75.

Mr. Long, the son of a plumber, was born in Baltimore and raised on Valley Street in the city's old 10th Ward.

Mr. Long was introduced to the world of Democratic politics in Baltimore by his father. Mr. Long was 9 when his father was killed in a fall from a roof.

"He helped his dad work the polls, organize campaigns and canvass neighborhoods. They'd do anything the candidate needed," said Kirk G. McCleary, a longtime friend and a retired Baltimore County detective who had been chief bodyguard to five county executives.

After graduating from City College in 1949, Mr. Long enlisted in the Marine Corps and married Louise D. Becker, who followed her husband to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where she taught nursery school.

After Mr. Long was discharged with the rank of sergeant, the couple returned to Baltimore, where he went to work as a salesman for the old Western Maryland Dairy and later for Lucas Brothers Inc., the Baltimore office supply company.

"In 1959, when he was selling carbon paper in Washington, he decided to call on Sen. John F. Kennedy's secretary, Evelyn Lincoln," Mr. McCleary said. "The cold call went well, and JFK approved a big order for Harold."

Mr. Long and his wife moved in 1959 to a rowhouse in Hillendale, where they raised three children.

After running for the House of Delegates in 1974 and losing, Mr. Long "took the rejection so personally that he vowed never to expose himself directly again," The Sun reported in 1994.

After a four-year political hiatus, Mr. Long and his wife were working for United Way in 1978 when they became friends with Donald P. Hutchinson, who was running for his first term as Baltimore County executive.

At Mr. Hutchinson's urging, Mr. Long joined his campaign, and that November, he managed to deliver his Hillendale precinct and several other important Towson-area precincts.

Mr. Long served for eight years as an aide to Mr. Hutchinson and then reprised his role for Dennis F. Rasmussen and Roger B. Hayden.

In the 1994 profile, The Sun described him as a "professional righthand man straight from the pages of The Last Hurrah, the 1950s novel about big-city politics" and said that Mr. Long "revels in the image he has created for himself - that of an inconspicuous, slightly mysterious player close to power."

"I did give him the nickname of 'Flea' because he was like a flea or a gnat who continually annoyed you until you did what he wanted you to do," said Mr. Hutchinson, now CEO and president of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. "If he thought something should be accomplished, he was a like a bug. He wouldn't leave you alone."

James T. Smith Jr., current Baltimore County executive, said yesterday, "Nobody in that office worked harder to help you out. Harold wanted to resolve problems, and he wanted to help you. He was a wonderful public servant."

Tom Toporovich, former longtime secretary to the Baltimore County Council and a Dundalk community leader, said, "Politics with him was both a vocation and an avocation. He was one of those rare politicians that no one ever said anything bad about."

The last county executive Mr. Long worked for was Mr. Hayden, from 1990 to 1994.

"Harold loved his job, the county and politics as much as he loved Louise and his family," Mr. Hayden said.

Mr. Long had been involved in Gerry L. Brewster's successful campaigns to become a delegate to the 1988 Democratic National Convention (Mr. Long was elected as well) and in 1990 for the House of Delegates.

After leaving Mr. Hayden's office in 1994, Mr. Long headed Mr. Brewster's unsuccessful campaign for Congress, which he lost to Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"He was an old-school pol who knew how to get things done. He had street smarts and liked to tell people he was a graduate of the school of hard knocks," said Mr. Brewster, a Towson attorney.

Jeffrey W. Long, their son, who is deputy planning director for Baltimore County, said, "My father had only one hobby, and it was politics, politics and politics."

The elder Mr. Long fell in love with his future wife when she was a student at Eastern High School, across the street from City College.

Mrs. Long was born in Baltimore and raised in Waverly. After high school, she worked at Maryland Casualty Insurance Co. After her marriage, she was a homemaker for many years while raising her family.

In 1975, she returned to work as an administrative assistant at United Way of Central Maryland. She went to work in 1980 in the Baltimore County Office of Human Resources as an administrative assistant, and at the time of her retirement in 1993 was an employment counselor in that office.

Mrs. Long was an avid gardener and reader.

"She was passionate about her garden and her perennials. She loved sharing them with family and friends, and loved seeing her flowers in their gardens," her daughter said.

"She loved to read, and her favorite poets were Tennyson, Poe, Longfellow and Bronte," Mrs. Leckrone said.

"There is a perfect symmetry to their lives and deaths," Mr. Hutchinson said.

The couple were members of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 8516 Loch Raven Blvd., Towson, where services will be held at 11:30 a.m. today.

Also surviving are five grandchildren. Another daughter, Susan M. Tracey, died in 2001.

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