Memorial Visitation June 10 For Writer, Outdoorsman, Parks Advocate Jeff Long

Memorial Visitation June 10 For Writer, Outdoorsman, Parks Advocate Jeff Long

  • This column was written by Rick Nagel, Kane County outreach coordinator and editor of Kane County Connect. You can reach him at

(CREDIT: Fox Valley Park District)

“Outside my office window near downtown Aurora, the Fox River flows. On the trail alongside, bicyclists, walkers, roller bladers and runners shadow the shoreline, contently cruising through the forested corridor of riverside greenness.

“With this view, there’s no such thing as a bad day.”

That’s how Jeff Long started a July 2017 column that appeared here in Kane County Connects and many other publications and websites.

The column is vintage Jeff. In the 44 words of those opening paragraphs, you can hear his love of nature, feel his optimism, get pumped up by his passion for all things green and find a little bit of the peace he experienced just by being outdoors.

You would never guess, ever, that this was a man who had been battling colon cancer for the better part of eight years.

Jeff lost that battle Tuesday, a surprise to many of us who knew him professionally, in part because of the regular flow of articles that he continued to provide in his role as public affairs and communications manager at the Fox Valley Park District, in part because he seemed invulnerable to cancer’s curse.

The last I saw him in person was Aug. 31 at the Google Digital Coaching Workshop at IN2 in Aurora. He looked terrific, was in great spirits and seemed to really enjoy the presentation. Jeff was always learning, always trying to improve his outreach work for the FVPD, which was absolutely first rate.

Jeff Long was a pro’s pro — a talented writer, a skilled journalist and truly one of the Fox Valley’s great nature advocates. He was a godsend for Kane County Connects, because his columns and news releases were so well-written, the photos he’d provide were so spectacular and the subject matter of so much value to residents of the Fox Valley. I’d e-mail him a note every now and again, just to thank him for providing great stuff.

I had the chance to work with Jeff when I was an editor and he was a sportswriter for The Beacon-News. As noted in his obituary below, he covered high school, college and pro sports during his newspaper career, and he was great at it — part of a dream team of sportswriters we had in those days. But his best stuff, it seemed to me, was found in the stories and columns he wrote about nature and outdoor recreation.

That was his passion. Jeff Long was a true outdoorsman.

On Sunday (June 3, 2018), the Mid-America Canoe & Kayak Race had to be cancelled due to dangerously high waters. Cancelling was the right thing to do, of course, but it’s just a little sad, because I think Jeff would have wanted the show to go on. This was the 57th annual running.

Jeff was the canoe race organizer, the event’s biggest cheerleader, historian and fan.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race would not have continued all these years without Jeff Long’s passion and leadership. He was the “man behind the curtain” every year, and through his nurturing, promotion and sheer enthusiasm, the race continues to be one of the highlights of spring in the Fox Valley.

The canoe race, I hope, will continue for another 50 or 100 years, perhaps — if I may be so bold to suggest the idea — with Jeff Long’s name attached to it.

There could be no more fitting legacy.

I heard about Jeff’s passing in a Facebook post from my dear friend and longtime co-worker Denise Crosby. In that brief post, I think Denise got it exactly right — as talented as Jeff was as a sports writer, he truly found his niche with the Fox Valley Park District. Writing about nature was Jeff’s joy, protecting and enhancing it his calling.

“What a class act Jeff was in every sense of the word,” Crosby wrote. “We have lost someone special. Rest in Peace, Jeff. You were so well respected and loved.”!/PhotosVideos/00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000

Obituary for Jeffrey N. Long

SOURCE: Daleiden Mortuary obituary

Jeffrey N. Long, 54, of Naperville, passed away surrounded by his loving family Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at his home after a courageous eight year battle with cancer, deifying the odds not once but twice what he was told by his doctors. He was born on May 5, 1964 in Lakewood, OH.

Jeff truly enjoyed life and was an active outdoorsman. He loved kayaking, biking and was instrumental in re-establishing the Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race.

He was a sports writer for the Beacon News for 23 years, covering local college and pro sporting events including the Chicago Bulls during their championship runs. In recent years, he worked for the Fox Valley Park District.

He is survived by his wife of 24 years, Jenean (Mickey) Long; his two children, Autumn Long and Trevor Long; four brothers, Brad (Laurie) Long, Steve (Jenny) Long, Adam (Katie) Long, Devin Long; his mother, Cynthia Bratta; stepmother, Linda Long; and numerous nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his father, Gregory Long.

A memorial visitation will be held from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. Sunday, June 10, 2018, at The Daleiden Mortuary, 220 North Lake St., Aurora.

Please visit, where you may read his full obituary, sign the guest book or leave condolences for his family.

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