About five months ago, shortly after Gene Long was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer and bone cancer, he looked up at his daughter with a wink as she helped him with his walker.
“He said, ‘I think I’m going to go bowling again,'” Janice Long recalled.
Gene Long’s wife and three living children have long since learned to take the Lewistown resident and World War II veteran at his word. And on Wednesday morning, as he predicted, Long celebrated his 95th birthday with friends and family at Walkersville Bowling Center — the same bowling alley where he still bowls every week, even though glaucoma and macular degeneration cloud his ability to see the skittles. .
Janice Long had tears in her eyes as she watched her father return to his chair after taking his turn in the alley. A few months ago, as her father was being treated in hospital – where visiting rules had been tightened due to the pandemic – she wondered if she would ever see him again.
But there he was, sitting a few feet away from her.
“It’s amazing,” she said.
Gene Long has experienced more than his fair share of health issues throughout his life. His wife, Shirley Long, listed them in an email: He tore every muscle in his right shoulder, had open-heart surgery and five-way bypass surgery — along with seven subsequent stents — and had to having two fingers reattached after accidentally amputating during a woodworking project.
Then, about 10 years ago, he was trapped under a golf cart at the age of 85 and airlifted to a trauma center with 12 broken ribs, a broken right shoulder, a punctured lung and a ” very slim chance of surviving. remembers his wife.
His daughter jokes that she suspects her father has more than nine lives – she thinks he has 11. Maybe he has an infinite number.
“I like to say it was put together with paper clips and rubber bands,” she said.
Gene Long grew up on a family farm in Creagerstown with nine siblings, five of whom still live. He was drafted for service in World War II just after turning 18, where he oversaw supply at 18th Regiment headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. He returned to America about a year later, in 1946.
Long was celebrated on his 90th birthday with a huge party at the Emmitsburg Volunteer Ambulance Co. attended by more than 200 of his friends, family and members of the Thurmont community. John Kinnaird, the town’s mayor, recognized March 5-11 as ‘Genes Long Week’ to honor the birthday boy’s dedication to agricultural preservation and volunteer work, according to previous reports from Frederick. News-Post.
Partygoers also received laminated bookmarks with Long for Life advice: “Never Stop Learning; Enjoy your vocation; Serve your country and your community; Worship your Creator; and be grateful!
This year, however, when Shirley Long asked her husband how he wanted to mark his 95th birthday, he said all he wanted was a birthday cake in a bowling alley.
He got his birthday wish. A day after turning 95, Gene Long spent Wednesday mornings sharing stories of bowling and cake with family and friends.
Until recently, Long bowled twice a week, his wife said — once with a 10-pound ball and once with the much smaller duck ball. Under the recommendation of his doctor, however, Long now sticks to duckpin bowling.
When asked why he loves bowling so much, Long had a simple answer: “It’s fun!”
“And he likes beating his sister,” his wife added with a smile.
“That’s the biggest one,” Long agreed, nodding.
Both are very competitive, said Long’s sister Gloriae Green, who turns 93 in a few weeks.
But “he usually beats me,” she admitted with a laugh.
Gloria Long Rollins, one of Long’s daughters, remembers her father bowling when she and her sister, Janice, were children. He had come home smelling like bowling, she recalls.
But at least when they were little, Long never took any of his daughters bowling. He inspired them in other ways, Janice Long said, such as his can-do attitude and determination to make his aspirations a reality.
She sometimes comes bowling with him now, but he’s much better than her, she said.
Shirley Long, Janice’s stepmother, enjoys watching her husband go bowling. When he takes his turn, it feels like all eyes are on him in the lane, she said, with fellow bowlers watching to see if they can help him in some way. or another. She said they accepted and were patient when he had a bad day at the bowling alley.
But that was not the case on Wednesday. Gene Long played a 111, including a strike and a spare, his wife wrote in an email after his party. He was so excited to be surrounded by friends celebrating his birthday, she wrote, and “I think the adrenaline was definitely flowing.”
As she watched her husband accept the punches and high fives after he launched a strike earlier on Wednesday, Shirley Long smiled.
“Maybe he needs to have a birthday every week,” she said.
Follow Angela Roberts on Twitter: @24_angier