By Anna DeWine
FAIRBORN — When he took over his father’s dry cleaning business on West Main Street in 1971, he didn’t know that he’d become mayor of the city nearly 30 years later.
But that’s exactly what happened for Larry Luther Long, who served for two years.
The businessman, chamber president and public servant died Saturday, Sept. 17 in the same city that he loved.
At age 75, Long was described as sound of mind, quick-witted and strong-willed as ever. It was with this strong will that he served the Fairborn community as both a businessman and a leader.
Long excelled in every aspect of the dry cleaning industry. Before him, his father, Pat, expanded his 1942 business from a tailoring shop to include dry cleaning and laundry. Larry Long followed by not only expanding the services in the shop, but also the business as a whole.
Long became a Web-Re-Stor licensee, so that his services could include wedding gown preservation and restoration. He gradually grew the single-shop operation into a multi-outlet enterprise, one that still exists today as Long Cleaners, serving Fairborn, the Miami Valley, and beyond. Long served on the board and as president of many dry cleaning associations, and he received the National Clean Award in 1988.
But succeeding within his own industry was not the only success Long had in his life, nor was it the only way he chose to serve his community.
Long’s involvement with the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce began when he served on the board of directors. Later, he was elected president in 1986.
That was a monumental year for the chamber when Long created The Ambassador Club. Ambassadors act as representatives for the chamber, attending ribbon cuttings, grand openings, and special events.
Paul Newman Sr., former executive director of the chamber, met Long in 1985. Newman was one of the first ambassadors.
“He made an unforgettable, historical impact on the chamber,” Newman said.
Long soon came up with the idea of presenting red jackets to the ambassadors. The red jackets make ambassadors stand out at events, Newman said, signifying membership. Long even volunteered to clean the jackets free.
Long also created what he called “Chamber Chats,” which link businesses and ambassadors together for conversation and networking. This, like his other contributions to the chamber, live on today.
Just last spring, the chamber surprised Long with The Ambassador Club Award on its 3oth anniversary.
“The timing couldn’t have been more perfect,” Newman said. “He was very emotional. We never forgot him, and he never forgot us.”
In 1999, Long was unanimously elected mayor of Fairborn. He served a two-year term.
A year after his election, Long received The Civil Excellence Award, rewarding him not only for his contributions to the chamber, but to the community, and to the city that he loved.
Funeral services will be held 10:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 23 at the Belton-Stroup Funeral Home, 422 E. Dayton-Yellow Springs Rd. Burial will follow in the Fairfield Cemetery.
Reach Anna DeWine at 937-502-4498.