Frank Long, left, and Pauline Thorstenson in “I’ll be home for Christmas” from a 1993 production.
COTTAGE GROVE – The final curtain has fallen on one of Cottage Grove’s finest citizens and his name is no doubt in lights on Heaven’s marquee announcing his appearance there. Frank Long passed away Thursday, June 10, after a long, active life of service to local theater, Cottage Grove High School, and the community at large.
Longtime friend and fellow actor Pauline Thorstenson remembers him as “a person who had a lot of drive for the CG Theatre, he considered it his baby, but also he just cared a lot about other people and found ways to help them. We did many plays together starting with some of the early shows at the Loft in the Village Green.”
Long was a highly respected English teacher at the high school and served as the yearbook adviser. Colleagues Mary Jo O’Fallon and Yvonne Buermann both mentioned how much he was interested in his students, being able to recall their names and graduation dates years later. “If he thought a student needed help or something wasn’t right he would get involved right away. He would also keep up with his students, checking in on their progress even after leaving school,” Buermann said. “He was an amazing person for his memory and very bright. While he never forgot a name and really cared about his students, he did have a bit of the ‘absent-minded professor’ about him, forgetting a meeting or his book somewhere,” O’Fallon recalled.
He would hold adult writing classes in the community and helped a number of older people learn to write or write better. Frank was in the choir at First Presbyterian, involved with the Boy Scouts, and was active in the local Sunrise Kiwanis Club. In Kiwanis he took a lead in the firewood program and served as Lt. Governor in his Division.
But his lasting legacy in Cottage Grove will be the Cottage Theatre. He started there as an actor but soon became a driving force in establishing the brick-and-mortar home for fledgling theater troupe. During his active years in the organization he served in every way imaginable – actor, production, set builder, member of the Board of Directors, even as self-appointed groundskeeper.
Current executive director Susan Goes spoke lovingly of Long.
“He was in a class by himself, but he was not above doing the lowliest of tasks like taking out the trash or weeding. Cottage Theatre would not be here or have lasted without his involvement. When I first came in he would check in to see how things were going and inquire if there was any way he could help. In the scramble to build a permanent home for the theater Frank took a big lead in the capital campaign working with Casey Woodard.
“He told Woodard that he would sell all of his friends $1,000-seat sponsorships and fortunately Frank had a lot of friends.”
Thorstenson recalls, “We did shows all over to help build the new building, lots here in CG but out at King Estates and in Eugene, anywhere that would have us.”
As Long became unable to perform or attend as many meetings he was honored with a Director Emeritus seat on the BOD. In honoring his service the Frank M. Long Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service was established in 2002 with Long as the first recipient.