95-year-old reaches out, spreads cheer to others

Leonard Long believes that small acts of service bring about great results.

And this 95-year-old has practiced this philosophy throughout his life - with few signs of slowing up.Today, Brother Long of the Edgehill 2nd Ward, Salt Lake Hillside Stake, home teaches two widows and a married couple, is priesthood chorister and coordinates activities for older, single ward members. As coordinator, he recently spearheaded a ward fireside on music - one of his great loves.

"Music soothes the soul," he said. Through the years, he has played a zither, a coronet, a french horn, and a harmonica.

By keeping involved in music and service, Brother Long can do what he is so well-known for - spreading good cheer. "When you smile, someone smiles with you," he told the Church News. In fact, he once told a friend who was feeling downcast, "You go smile in the mirror and the fellow in the mirror will smile back."

Brother Long related, "I could have died from previous illnesses, but I've come back and been healthy. I've tried to get along with my fellow man. Jesus is no respecter of persons. I've tried to be that way."

His granddaughter, Kristine L. Steffensen of the Cottonwood 4th Ward, Salt Lake Big Cottonwood Stake, said her grandfather is "very conscious of the feelings of others. He visits friends in rest homes. He's told me about different people he visits and those who he goes to comfort who have lost spouses."

She added: "He is constantly aware of certain problems in the family. He sincerely wants to know what's happening. He is never too old to reach out. As a result, I see the family reaching out to him. They want to include him and want to feel of his spirit."

This is significant considering Brother Long has 20 grandchildren, 58 great-grandchildren and 14 great-great-grand-children.

"I've been helping people all my life," Brother Long related. "I've enjoyed it. I've felt that I've been useful."

The people that Brother Long home teaches - or just visits for no particular reason - would probably agree that he is certainly useful. One elderly member once told him, "Hearing your voice is the best medicine any doctor could give me."

One less-active family especially enjoyed Brother Long's visits. One day the mother, who was suffering from cancer, said, "It always makes us feel good to have you come to us."

Brother Long's relationships with these families are most likely the result of his attitude concerning home teaching. "I've been been home teaching since I was 13 years old. I don't say hello and goodbye. When I go visit a widow, we talk about her family and things that concern her life."

Devotion to family, friends and the gospel began long ago for Brother Long while growing up in Halifax, Yorkshire, England. His parents joined the Church in 1900 and he was baptized in 1905. He recalled attending district conferences in Bradford, some 8-10 miles from Halifax. "My dad loved to walk, so when I was young we sometimes walked to conference. We'd start off early in the morning, and he was pretty strict on getting there on time."

Life dramatically changed for the young lad in 1913 when his family immigrated to the United States. He recalled seeing Liberty Park in Salt Lake City for the first time: "The parks in England were beautiful with flowers. Liberty Park then was a mass of dirt with trees. Now the trees in the park are big trees."

Life in Utah soon settled down for the young man. He later worked for and then managed knitting factories in Salt Lake City and Logan, Utah, about 70 miles north of Salt Lake City.

During the 1910s, he met Hilda Violet Keveren, whom he married in the Salt Lake Temple May 22, 1918. They had five children, three of whom are living.

Sister Long died in February 1956, and soon after Brother Long received a mission call to the Northern California Mission. The mission was delayed due to the death of Brother Long's mother, but his missionary service finally began in November 1957.

After returning home, Brother Long bumped into an old friend, Ione Garr. He recalled that after speaking with her for a few minutes, he walked away thinking, "I could marry that girl."

And he did, in the Salt Lake Temple on May 26, 1963. The warmth of their companionship over the years is apparent in the decorations in the small home the two shared until her death in October 1988 - the home in which Brother Long still lives. Family pictures cover the dining room wall and memorabilia of family travels adorn corners, tables and the fireplace.

"I've missed Ione so much," Brother Long admitted, but his granddaughter, who was present during the Church News interview, was quick to tell him, "Despite that loneliness, you still reach out. You still give to others."

For instance, Brother Long recently joined in a ward project to make small wooden toy cradles for the Salvation Army to give to needy children at Christmas.

Reaching out as Brother Long does has brought rich rewards not only to his friends - but to his life as well. "I have friends. They remember me," he said, and added that many people speak with him when he goes to activities. "Sometimes I don't know them, but they know me."

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