Eldon W. Long filed his final flight plan, with his suitcase full of 94 years’ worth of love, laughter, and adventure, on November 22, 2019. After 30 plus years working high in the sky, and almost 30 years of a well-deserved and enjoyed retirement, Eldon’s luggage was full of all that we could hope for in the end of our days.
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October 3rd was a big day to Eldon, not only was it his birthday, but also the day he was blessed with his first grandchild, Angela, and the days he celebrated his son Michael’s homecoming football touchdowns. Fast forward a few years to his granddaughter Jenny’s wedding day, also on October 3rd; Eldon always wanted his special day to become a special date for everyone.
Born the 9th of ten children to Eugene Russell and Carrie Brooks Long, Eldon enjoyed a childhood full of big family love in the small town of Ronan, Mont. Graduating as a varsity team basketball star and a member of the class of 1944 at Ronan High school, Eldon’s future was bright, with a scholarship offer to the University of Montana. But in the midst of World War II, Eldon chose a path of patriotic duty and enlisted to serve his country as an Army parachute jumper, with plans to return to basketball and his education. After an honorable discharge as a result of a parachute jump injury, his knee no longer would allow for basketball to be his path. One could day this unfortunate event led to his best life, one including his greatest love, Dorothy “Dot” Dellwo. While working in his hometown Sterling’s general store after returning from the war, his future wife and former high school classmate crossed his path and landed a place in his heart. Their kind of love is the stuff movies are made of, and he spent the rest of his life, 72 years, caring for her and their four children, Bonnie, Barbara, Michael, and Patti.
Eldon was a self-made man, finding his calling in flight aviation school, which led him to 32 years of service for companies like Frontier Airlines and FAA Flight service. He was a leader to follow, and served as an award winning and accolade receiving Flight Service Chief all across Montana, North Dakota, and New Mexico.
Eldon was a big man, not only in size but also in his personality and heart which could fill the room. His loving and carefree nature created life-long friends and laugh filled memories.
Eldon enjoyed the company of his dearest friend Vince Filimon. You could find these two self-proclaimed golfing pros spending their days on the green. Eldon was Jack Nicklaus, Vince was Lee Trevino; the competition was fierce but the friendship everlasting. Vince was family, as all the Long children called him Uncle most of their lives. You couldn’t spend 5 minutes with Eldon without cracking a big smile or a hearty chuckle, he was a man with the best sense of humor, a character of a guy to say the least. You know a visit with Eldon wouldn’t be complete without some jokes and until he said “Hey, did I tell you about the time…” or, “…did you hear the one about the…” His creativity and funny bone were always changing up the titles and lyrics of his favorite country songs; a few of his best known hits include “Gopher Girls”, “Gramma Grunt Santa Sleigh”, and Ollie Oles “Free Ollies”.
Eldon would say his highest accomplishment in life was caretaking of his wife “Mama” Dorothy. She is his best person in life, his partner, his wife, his very best friend. Their love created a family he was proud of. Eldon was everything a dad was supposed to be. Bonnie, the eldest of the Long children, highly regarded Education Librarian and matriarch of the siblings. Her husband Victor Dale was special to Eldon, he was the second son he never had. Barbara was the flower child, the “hippie challenge” and tested all of the limits of his parenting days, but he was so proud of her strong surviving nature. Patti had a special place in Eldon’s heart as the baby of the family. Whatever challenges or changes in her life, Eldon made sure her, including his granddaughter Aimme Joe, and her family were well cared for. Mike, who he lovingly called “Mick”, became Eldon’s best buddy. Eldon loved watching him play baseball. Mick was a 1971 all state centerfielder and even though Eldon did not like the Yankees, Eldon was proud Mick was scouted by Eddie Taylor of the New York Yankees. He admired Mick’s drive and determination. However, Eldon said Mick’s best accomplishment was not baseball it was his loving wife, Marla Viator Long, his daughter in law that he held a special place in heart.
Eldon would want to make sure all of his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, friends and family members knew how grateful he was for the care and love they provided to him and his wife in his final days. He would want to make sure after the tears have dried, that each of them remembers that he will love them forever, and for them to hold onto their favorite joke he told them, and to cherish all the good times they had together.
Eldon is survived by wife Dorothy, children Barbara, Patti, and Mike, son in law Victor, and daughter in law Marla. Niece Mary Anne. Adopted neighbor Buster Pritchard. Grandchildren and great grandchildren Angela Powell (Kevin) and Jessica, Justin, and Josh; Steff Peters (Noel) and Megan and Ryan; David Powell (Shasta) and Dean; Cindie Bacon (Chris) and Aiden, Alex, and Aeric; Megan Powell and Libby and Amelia; Keith Warford (Brooke) and Jacob, Hayden, Skyler, and Damien; Naomi Warford and Estevan, Riley and Braxton; Joseph Long (Britney) and Marley, Logan; Jennifer Benavidez (Cameron) and Gavin, Reese, McKenna, and Addie Mykel; Aimee Johnson (Matt) and Aaron; Heather Ware (Tim) and McKenzie and Fallan; Amanda Dellwo, niece; Corky & Joni Rada Special nephew & niece and unconditional love and support from Marla’s family Roger & Phyl Ditoo, Shance & Ashley Robichaux and Morgan & Derek Kirkwood.
Eldon was preceded in death by his parents, all of his siblings, granddaughter Naomi, friend Vince Filimon, in law Jerry “Granny” Viator, first-born daughter Bonnie Powell.
As a husband, dad, grandfather, relative, or friend, he was simply known as “Eldon the Great.” Thank you Grandpa for everything you’ve done for all of us carrying on your legacy.
The family would like to give special thanks to Bonnie, Barbara, Patti, and great grandson Gavin for the selfless giving of their time and support to provide care for both Eldon and Dorothy. Many thanks to the team at St. Pat’s Hospital, Nick Furlong, MD Partners in Home Care Hospice, including Kati, Marilee, Evelyn, Libby, Stacie and Misty.
Memorial service will be announced at a later date.