Saying good-bye to Howard

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Fellow officers, friends, family lay former Trimble sheriff to rest

By Dave Taylor

The Trimble Banner Hundreds of people came out Monday, Dec. 28, to pay their respects to William Howard Long, a man many described as being dedicated to the people of Trimble County, always ready with a smile and a firm – very firm – handshake. Long, known as “Howardy” by many locals, served as Trimble County’s sheriff for 20 years and as chief deputy sheriff – under his brother, Denny Long – for nine years. He died Tuesday, Dec. 22, at Norton Hospital in Louisville, Ky., at age 78. He was first elected sheriff in 1966, and served during the administrations of three county judge-executives: the late Clyde E. “Jack” Greenwood, Jack Couch and Ray Clem. He and his brother retired from law enforcement in 2002. “Howard was a great man with honor, who dedicated his life to the people of Trimble County,” said current Sheriff Tim Coons. “He will be greatly missed.”  Coons first met Long while visiting his grandparents in Trimble County; at the time, Coons was attending a law enforcement academy in Florida. “My grandparents had a great appreciation for him,” Coons said. Bill Andrews, Jefferson County, Ind., sheriff said Long was sheriff in Trimble when Andrews joined the Madison Police Department in 1977. “Back then, a sheriff in Kentucky could only serve four years at a time,” Andrews recalled. “He would serve four years, then David Craig would serve a term, then Howard again, and they alternated like that.” Couch, who served as judge-executive from 1986-98, said he’d known Long, and his brothers, Skeeter and Denny, since he was 14. “Our family had just moved here. The Long brothers used to have the Standard gas station in Milton,” Couch recalled. “I walked across the street one day and asked them if they had any work that I could do. I started off washing cars there on Saturdays.” Milton Mayor Denny Jackson knew Long for nearly 50 years. “I first got to know him as a kid when I lived on Peck Pike,” Jackson said. “Then, when we moved to U.S.. Hwy. 421, we were neighbors with Howard until he married.” Long and Elaine Willis were married June 19, 1970. Their home overlooks the Ohio River valley near Milton’s scenic Moffett Cemetery. Elaine Long survives, along with Howard’s three brothers and several nieces and nephews. His full obituary appears on Page 5 of this issue. When Long wasn’t serving as sheriff, he worked with his brothers at the gas station, Couch said. “After Skeeter sold the station, Howard and Denny used to paint barns together. He and Denny worked together just about all their lives.” Both Jackson and Coons described Long’s law enforcement career as exemplary. “Howard had a tremendous amount of respect for the people of the county, and because of that the people of the county also had a lot of respect for him,” Jackson said. “As sheriff, he was never overbearing, never pushy. That quality endeared him to people.” “To this day, very few days will go by that somebody doesn’t mention something about the way Howard would do this for people in need, either financially or giving them food,” Coons said. “He often went way above the call of duty. He was the true definition of the motto ‘To protect and serve.’ A lot of people in law enforcement are serious about the ‘protect’ part, but they forget the serve part. In that, Howard was exemplary.” “He took his job seriously every day,” Couch said. “He was truly dedicated to that job.” Long served as either sheriff or chief deputy during all of Couch’s 12 years as administrator of county government. Couch and the members of Trimble County Fiscal Court had the responsibility for signing off on the sheriff’s budget each year. “He was always very congenial to work with,” Couch said. “He always understood when money was tight. He and David Craig used to purchase their patrol cars with their own money. Finally, when I was judge-executive, I convinced the magistrates to finance one out of the county’s budget so Howard wouldn’t have to do it with his own money anymore. He was very deserving of it.”  Coons said there have been a number of times he called Howard for advice in handling certain investigations. “I would have to include Denny in that, too,” he said. “Sometimes in a burglary investigation, I would ask Howard for ideas. Because of his many years of experience in the county, he knew everybody, and he would give me an idea where to start with the investigation. He was incredible, because most of the time he was right on.” “There is no doubt that Sheriff Long also had a lot of respect in the law enforcement community,” Andrews said. “That was quite evident from the great turnout of officers at the memorial service. He was very well-respected.” Numerous officers from the Kentucky State Police, Trimble County Sheriff’s Department, and police agencies from surrounding counties stood on both sides of the Milton United Methodist Church sanctuary as an honor guard during Long’s memorial service on Monday, Dec. 28. Traffic control for the funeral procession and to direct parking was handled by Milton Fire Chief Ronnie Barnes and volunteers from Milton Fire and Rescue, allowing law enforcement personnel to participate in the services at the church and at graveside. So many people came to the service that parking overflowed across U.S. 421 to the lot at Mount Byrd Christian Church. Long was a member of the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association, an organization which works to  to support the youth of Kentucky through the Kentucky Sheriffs’ Boys and Girls Ranch for less-fortunate children. Long also was active in several church and community organizations. He was a member of the Milton Lions Club during five decades. Long was an antique car aficionado and was a member of the Choice Automobiles of Madison Car Club. Long was a member of the Milton United Methodist Church where he had served as a trustee and member of the church administrative council. He also was active for many years in Gideons International, through sharing about the ministry of the Gideons in churches, and by distributing Bibles in areas such as hotels, prisons and nursing homes. “He was one of the finest Christian gentlemen I’ve ever known in my life,” Jackson said. “He was so deeply involved with church work. I know I couldn’t think of Milton Methodist Church without thinking of Howard.” Long also was dedicated to local young people. “He has always been very involved with young people there at the church,” Couch recalled. “He often gave children’s lessons on Sunday mornings. When I was a teenager working for them at the gas station, he used to say, ‘Come on and go to church with me, and afterwards we’ll go have lunch at Butler Park.’ That became a regular thing.” During the funeral service, the Rev. Mike McArter, pastor of the Milton United Methodist Church, told the near capacity crowd of Long’s final appearance in services there on Sunday evening, Dec. 20. “We had an evening of sharing and testimony. Howard was always ready to share in those kind of services,” McArter said. “He read a couple of poems that night. He shared his belief that Christ should be the center of Christmas, and that our country needed a spiritual awakening. He was a gifted speaker. Looking back on his testimony of that evening it was like he was saying, ‘This is what I stand for. This is my life.’ The meaning, the purpose, the drawing force in Howard’s life was Jesus Christ.” After the Dec. 20 evening service Long, his wife and a number of friends went out to eat and enjoyed time together. A few hours later, he was rushed to the hospital. “It was so much in character for Howard Long to be in church, to give his testimony, to be in fellowship with friends and then go home to be with the Lord,” McArter said. “That last Sunday he was at church I had a chance to talk with him for a short time after the service,” Couch said. “That strong handshake that he was known for was just as strong as ever, so I was really shocked when I heard that he had passed away just a couple of days later.” “He was very kind-hearted,” Jackson said. “I don’t think the man ever met a stranger.” “He squeezed every bit of life that he could out of each day,” McArter said. “He often gave the children’s sermon at church. The last one he gave was about St. Nicholas, the generous bishop. When I think of Howard, I think of his generous heart.” “He was a genuine servant of this community,” Coons said, “because he genuinely cared for this community.”