Longtime Strawberry resident Bob Long, whose decades of community service included a 55-year stint as a volunteer with the Dipsea Run and 14 years on the local recreation district board, died May 29 in WestHaven Assisted Living in Orland after a period of health decline. He was 85 years old.
Mr. Long’s death preceded his scheduled June 10 induction into the Dipsea Hall of Fame in recognition of his dedication to the annual race, a 7.4-mile trek from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach that began in 1905 and has the distinction of being the oldest trail race in the country.
He had been a volunteer with the race since 1967. The first year he and his wife, Joanne, were race instructors, then it became a family affair, with their young daughters, Paddy and Michelle, helping out by handing out sacks of tracksuit.
“We were there every year, and it was something very special,” said her daughter Paddy Long Turnbull. “He and my mom absolutely loved it.”
He eventually progressed to team captain of the volunteers stationed atop the course’s first hill, known as “Windy Gap”; he earned the nickname “The Legend of Windy Gap” for his organization and dedication. He is believed to be the longest serving volunteer on race day.
“He was one of a kind,” said Karen Popp, longtime Dipsea Race volunteer and co-captain of the Windy Gap segment team. “He was a quiet guy who didn’t make a lot of noise, and he had a big heart and the best sense of humor.”
She said Mr. Long would start calling for volunteers three or four months in advance to line them all up for the race.
“He was modest but powerful,” she said.
In 1977, about a decade after he began volunteering for the Dipsea Race, Long joined the Strawberry Recreation District board of directors and remained there for over a decade.
Even after leaving the board, he often visited the center and asked the staff if there was anything they could help with.
“Bob was a very nice person, very warm and empathetic,” said Nancy Shapiro, recreation district manager, who said she met Mr. Long when she was hired by the district in 2019. “He had the used to call the office all the time to see how we were doing and often stopped by to say hello, say how much he appreciated our efforts and just chat He wanted to know everyone in the office and always asked how everyone’s family was doing .
She said it was proof of Mr. Long’s connection to the district.
“I believe he felt a continued sense of responsibility for (the district’s) success even years after he left the board,” she said.
For his dedication to the district, in 1985 he received a Community Recognition Award from the California Parks and Recreation Society.
He also volunteered at Strawberry Point Elementary School in the early 90s when Joanne worked there as a kindergarten teacher’s assistant.
Mr. Long was born January 4, 1937 in San Francisco and grew up in Sausalito; he graduated from Marin Catholic High School and attended the College of Marin. Later he was very active in organizing Marin Catholic class reunions.
He met Joanne, who died in 2010, through mutual friends, and the two were married in April 1960. After living in Mill Valley for several years, they moved to Strawberry in 1967 and raised their families there. two girls.
After joining and training in the US Air Force Reserve, Mr. Long worked for Pacific Telephone for 31 years as a maintenance supervisor and personnel manager. After his retirement, he was hired by the Mill Valley School District and spent 22 years as a school library book courier and general staff aide.
In his spare time, Mr Long loved working with wood – a chair he made in the shape of a bear for one of his daughters is still used by his grandchildren – and spending time with his family.
He is survived by his two daughters, Paddy Long Turnbull of Orland and Michele Long of Woodland; four grandchildren, Jacob and Daniel Turnbull and Jack and Quinn Long; and two great-grandchildren, Allison and Bennett Turnbull.
At his request, there will be no services. Donations in his memory may be sent to St. Vincent’s School for Boys, 1 St. Vincent’s Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903; and the Dipsea Race Foundation in dipseafoundation.orgwhich raises money to make improvements to the trail and its tributaries.
Contact Tiburon reporter Deirdre McCrohan at 415-944-4634.