Strawberry resident Bob Long's community service included decades as Dipsea Race volunteer
Longtime Strawberry resident Bob Long, whose decades of community service included a 55-year stint as a volunteer with the Dipsea Race and 14 years on the board of the local recreation district, died May 29 at WestHaven Assisted Living in Orland after a period of declining health. He was 85.
Mr. Long’s death preceded his planned June 10 induction into the Dipsea Hall of Fame in recognition of his dedication to the annual trail run, a 7.4-mile trek from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach that began in 1905 and holds the distinction of being the oldest trail race in the country.
He had volunteered with the race since 1967. The first year, he and his wife, Joanne, were course monitors and then it became a family affair, with their young daughters, Paddy and Michelle, helping by handing out sweat bags.
“We were there every year, and it was something very special,” said daughter Paddy Long Turnbull. “Both my mom and he really loved it.”
He eventually progressed to team captain of the volunteers stationed at the summit of the first hill in the course, known as “Windy Gap”; he earned the nickname “The Legend of Windy Gap” for his organization and dedication. He’s believed to be the longest-serving race-day volunteer.
“He was one of a kind,” said Karen Popp, a longtime Dipsea race volunteer and a co-team captain of the Windy Gap segment. “He was a low-key guy who didn’t make a big fuss, and he had a big heart and the best sense of humor.”
She said Mr. Long would start calling volunteers three or four months in advance to get them all lined up for the race.
“He was modest but mighty,” she said.
In 1977, about a decade after he started volunteering for the Dipsea Race, Long joined the board of the Strawberry Recreation District and remained there for more than a decade.
Even after he stepped down from the board, he would often walk down to the center and ask staff if there was anything he could help with.
“Bob was very nice person, very warm and empathetic,” said Nancy Shapiro, the recreation district’s manager, who said she met Mr. Long when she was hired by the district in 2019. “He used to call the office all the time to see how we were doing and would often stop by to say hello, say how much he appreciated our efforts and to just chat. He wanted to get to know all the office staff and always inquired about how everyone’s family was doing.”
She said that’s evidence of Mr. Long’s connection to the district.
“I believe he felt a continued sense of responsibility for (the district’s) success even years after leaving the board,” she said.
For his dedication to the district, in 1985 he received a Community Recognition Award from the California Parks and Recreation Society.
He also volunteered at Strawberry Point Elementary School in the early ’90s when Joanne worked there as an assistant to the kindergarten teacher.
Mr. Long was born Jan. 4, 1937, in San Francisco and grew up in Sausalito; he graduated from Marin Catholic High School and attended College of Marin. In later years, he was very active in organizing Marin Catholic class reunions.
He met Joanne, who died in 2010, through mutual friends, and the two were married in April 1960. After living in Mill Valley for several years, they moved to Strawberry in 1967 and raised their two daughters there.
After joining and training with the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Mr. Long worked for Pacific Telephone for 31 years as a maintenance supervisor and staff manager. After he retired, he was hired by the Mill Valley School District and spent 22 years as a school library-book courier and general aide to the staff.
In his free time, Mr. Long loved woodworking — a chair he crafted in the shape of a bear for one of his daughters is still being used by his grandchildren — and spending time with his family.
He is survived by his two daughters, Paddy Long Turnbull of Orland and Michele Long of Woodland; four grandchildren, Jacob and Daniel Turnbull and Jack and Quinn Long; and two great-grandchildren, Allison and Bennett Turnbull.
At his request, there will be no services. Donations in his memory may be sent to St. Vincent’s School for Boys, 1 St. Vincent’s Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903; and to the Dipsea Race Foundation at dipseafoundation.org, which raises money to make improvements to the trail and its tributaries.
Reach Tiburon reporter Deirdre McCrohan at 415-944-4634.