‘A Man of Family, Faith, Service’
By Ed Wilkinson, Editor Emeritus
BAY RIDGE — Anyone passing by Clavin’s Funeral Home in Bay Ridge on July 28 knew that someone important was being waked. A line that began on the second floor of the landmark establishment on Fourth Ave. snaked down through Chapel A on the first floor, out the door, and down the block on 78th St.
Friends patiently waited in line to pay their respects to Michael Long, the former state chairman of the Conservative Party, successful businessman, and church activist, who died July 24 at his home in Breezy Point.
The Mass of Christian Burial on July 29 at Our Lady of Angels Church drew a standing-room-only congregation. Three bishops attended in choir dress — Bishop Emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio, Auxiliary Bishop James Massa, and Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen, representing Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Archdiocese of New York. Msgr. Kevin Noone, pastor emeritus of OLA, was the main celebrant of the Mass.
Michael Long Jr., the eldest of the nine Long children, commented on his father’s life.
“His loving guidance taught me three things: Catholicism, patriotism, and family,” he said. He gave us the tools that we needed, and he developed in us the strength to fight for what we believe.”
He recalled that his father loved his country and the freedom and opportunities that it offered and said that his motivation was to preserve that future for his children and grandchildren.
“But it was as a husband that he was at his best,” said Michael Jr., explaining that his dad and mother, Eileen, had been married on May 4, 1963, in Blessed Sacrament Church, Cypress Hills.
The funeral was a public tribute to Long, but the family also brought a personal touch to the day. Long’s seven sons, 10 grandsons, two nephews and two sons-in-law all came to church wearing ties from his collection of neckwear.
Bishop DiMarzio, who led the final blessing and commendation of the body, remarked that Mike Long’s life was marked by “faith and integrity.”
“He brought something special to the public forum — an integrity that is missing in so much of political life.”
One of the great legacies of Long’s life was his commitment to the Church and to the broader Catholic community, both in Cypress Hills, where he grew up, and in Bay Ridge, where he later settled his family.
In both neighborhoods, he and his brother, Tom, were business partners — with an ice cream shop in Queens and a liquor store in Brooklyn.
Pat Russo, former president of The Cathedral Club of Brooklyn, said that Long “was always faithful, always loyal to his friends, to his faith, and to his principles.”
As one of the longest-serving members of the board of directors of The Cathedral Club, “he was the guiding light that kept the Club on track in its support for Catholic education and for helping kids in need,” said Russo.
Long was a member of the club’s board of directors for 41 years, having earned a seat in 1981. He also was an advocate for inviting only pro-life politicians as guests to the club’s annual dinner. Many of the affair’s main speakers agreed to appear because of their alliances with Long.
Russo added that there will be a special remembrance of Mike Long at The Cathedral Club’s annual Memorial Mass on Nov. 19 at Our Lady of Angels Church.
Long also belonged to other organizations affiliated with the Catholic Church, including Our Lady of Knock Knights of Columbus Council 17580 and Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 22.
Over the years, he received several awards for upholding church ideals. In June 2009, he was made a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, an honor bestowed by a pope, for his strong pro-life stand.
Long’s deep Catholic faith also reached into the field of education.
He served as chairman of the board of directors of Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge, a school established at the site of the former Our Lady of Angels School in 2009. Ten years later, Holy Angels merged with St. Anselm Catholic to form Bay Ridge Catholic Academy.
He once told a reporter that being chairman of the Holy Angels Academy board of directors gave him the greatest satisfaction of his career.
As a business owner, Long played a key role in Bay Ridge’s economy. He was a member of the Fifth Avenue Board of Trade (his liquor store was located on the avenue), a group that was formed in 1993 to bring together area business owners to work together to improve the neighborhood and attract more shoppers to boost the local economy.
The board of trade eventually gave way to the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), a public-private partnership between the city and business owners in which merchants agree to pay additional taxes to fund supplemental sanitation services, private security patrols, and holiday lighting on the streets. Long served on the BID’s board of directors.
Father Jim Devlin, the former pastor of Our Lady of Angels, who developed a close relationship with the Longs, preached the homily, in which he said that “at the heart of Mike’s dream for his faith was his great love for the church. Jesus Christ was his guide. He was his shepherd. Faith was at the heart of everything he did.”
Father Devlin praised the closeness and devotion to one another of the members of the Long family. “Mike was with Eileen at the heart of the family. Mike poured himself out for Eileen, for his children, through all the pains of growing up.”
Long was also much admired in the political arena.
In the congregation were Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin; former L.I. Congressman Peter King; former State Sen. Martin Golden; NYS Republican leader Ed Cox; and Gerard Kassar, Long’s successor as Conservative Party chair.
Long served as chairman of the New York State Conservative Party from 1988 until his retirement in 2019. During his tenure, Long turned the party into a potent force in state politics. According to Kassar, the party’s support was a key factor in Republican George Pataki defeating Democratic incumbent Mario Cuomo for governor in 1994. The 350,000 votes Pataki received on the Conservative Party line helped put him over the top in the tight race, Kassar said. Pataki won the race by less than 174,000 votes.
Father Devlin concluded that “Mike loved his country. Mike loved our freedoms. But he loved his family even more.”
As the coffin was carried out of the church, a flag was draped over it, signifying Long’s service as a member of the United States Marines. It was placed in the hearse for the hour-long drive to St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.
Long enlisted in the Marines in 1959 and served for two years. He was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He was a member of the American Legion and, in 2012, was the grand marshal of the Kings County Memorial Day Parade.
“He was a person of faith, a person who loved his family, a person who loved America,” Father Devlin said. “Family, faith, and service — that was Mike’s message to us.”
Senior Reporter Paula Katinas contributed to this story.