Robert MacIlvaine (Mack) Long
born-1868 Ostrander, Delaware County, Ohio
died-1958 Marysville, Union County, Ohio
married 1903 Matilda “Tillie” Browning Koffroth
Son of Robert M. Long and Mary E. MacIlvain. He was one of four children born to Robert and Mary, Charley, Sarah, Mack and William. Mack Long never had any biological children, but is the man who stepped up and raised Dana Browning Koffroth. Tillie had been married to John Koffroth, who packed up and moved west, taking one son and leaving one behind. Divorced and raising a son on her own would have been difficult, but Mack Long came along with his winning smile and outrageous sense of humor and charmed her into marriage. Tillie died in 1925, but Mack continued to be a presence in Dana’s life. He was buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Union County next to his lovely Tillie.
The story below was written by Dana’s youngest son, Willis Adrian Koffroth and is his observations of his Grandpa Long. Sadly none of the aforementioned people are with us, but we can glimpse some of magic of their lives, by what was written by a descendant.
1920s motorist in Central Ohio did double takes when they saw the old gentleman standing by the highway with outstretched thumb. Neatly dressed in a conservative suit; tie precisely knotted, derby hat perched on his head; fancy valise at his feet. it was Grandpa Long heading to Akron to visit his son and family.
He lived about 125 miles away, and could easily afford train fare, but he preferred to hitch rides. it was a way he “could meet interesting people”, and he certainly had no problem getting a ride. What motorist could pass up a well-dressed gentleman that looks like the local bank president?
Grandpa Long was born with what used to be called a club foot, but it never slowed him down. In later years, it added to his image as he always sported a fashionable cane. He was named for his father, who he described as the "best brick mason in the country". This pronouncement was made as he pointed to his father's handiwork in the huge ornate courthouse in Marysville.
The visits by Grandpa Long were never announced. He would just make his decision, pack up his valise, and head for the highway. There was high excitement when he was spotted clomping up the hill to our house, even among the neighborhood kids, for the lucky one that reached him first could carry his valise and be the recipient of a shiny new dime.
Nothing pleased him more that to have all of the children gathered around him for story-telling. His young audience sat spellbound as Grandpa Long told tales of his early life. He would thrill the kids with stories about Diamond Dick, champion marksman, and Captain Bogartis, the intrepid hunter and trapper, who, when faced with a hugh grizzly bear, would reach right down his throat and turned it inside out. As his young listeners sat wide-eyed his eyes would twinkle and he would shake with laughter.
Grandpa described himself as "a person with a grasshopper mind and itchy feet". He said, as a 13-year old boy, he ran away from home and went west to shoot buffalo and be a cowboy, and not one of his grandchildren ever doubted that this was true. among his many pursuits, real or imaginary, cooking was the one thing he enjoyed most, largely, he said, because a good cook could always get a job and he never went hungry.
On the subject of transportation, Grandpa Long would recall that "Not many years ago, when automobiles were a real novelty, the driver had to stop and pull off the road when a horse and carriage approached, because if the horse got scared and started rearing the driver had to get out of his car and help calm the horse."
The old gentleman never lost his knack of resourcefulness, and as he grew older he would supplement his small monthly pension in a number of novel ways. In his late 70s he lived on the 3rd floor of a building over some retail stores. His little apartment was reached by a set of stairs leading up from the sidewalk. Across the hallway was a room used for various functions and meetings, and when not in use Grandpa appropriated it for the operation of a large, rousing poker game. It was the only game in town, so it was well attended, even by some of the prominent local businessmen. I recall spending a week with him when I was a boy, and, though innocent of any knowledge of any illegal activity, I sat at the top of those stairs for a couple of hours with instructions to sound the alarm in case of unexpected company.
It never occurred to us that Grandpa Long was not our natural grandfather. He was our father's Dad. He was the man who helped raise him from infancy to manhood, a person he turned to for advice and learning. A father he loved, and who loved him back. He was the father who shared all of those years the natural one missed, when he skipped out on Grandma years before.
Written by Willis A. Koffroth.