Palestine Unit 3 Interim Superintendent Chris Long died Tuesday.
The school district released this statement Tuesday: "It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Chris Long the CUSD 3 Superintendent. Chis had an amazingly positive impact on CUSD 3, Palestine! Chris Long loved CUSD 3 and CUSD 3 loved Chris Long!"
Long, 62, of Sigel, died at HSHS St. Anthony Memorial Hospital in Effingham.
"Chris was a great friend, and he successfully led the district through a number of challenges," said Palestine Board of Education President Corie Biggs. "Even though he could only serve in a part-time capacity, he was very dedicated to the Palestine district. His leadership has allowed us to develop outstanding administrative and teaching staffs. He has also placed the district in a position of unprecedented financial stability, while improving educational opportunities for our students. His vision will allow the district to succeed well into the future. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him."
"This is tough, " said Palestine Dean of Students Tangi Waldrop. "Mr. Long led CUSD 3 through dark and difficult circumstances. He had a great ability to see the good in all people and all situations. I have never had a better boss, and he was a dear friend! He valued education who was a champion for small rural districts. This is a deep loss both professionally and personally. The entire village of Palestine will mourn this loss for a very long time."
"Chris' knowledge in the world of education was strong but his positive presence in the lives he touched was even more powerful," said Grade School Principal Jessica Sisil. "He always found a way to make what we do in our lives personally and professionally more purposeful. We are forever grateful to have had a chance to know Chris and learn from him. He was a shining star that everyone knew and will be deeply missed by CUSD 3."
Long was born June 18, 1956 in Decatur, the son of the late Sidney and Evelyn (Foster) Long. He graduated from Lovington High School and later received his undergraduate degree from Millikin University in Decatur. He went on to obtain a Master's in Education and Specialist in Education from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. He married Sheryl Hoedebecke on Nov. 21, 1987.
Long taught fifth grade at Newton Elementary, was a former principal for the Effingham School System, Assistant Superintendent at Shelbyville, Superintendent of Kansas Unit 3 Schools for 20 years and retired followed by being Interim Superintendent at Palestine.
In his free time, he was a coordinator for IESA and IHSA, specializing in softball though he also officiated volleyball, football, baseball, and basketball. Long enjoyed singing and was part of the Eagle's Wings Quartet.
Lincoln Trail College softball coach Gary Rodgers told about how Long was an amazing human being as well as an umpire, who officiated some of the Lady Statesmen's games. The two became good friends after meeting as a coach and umpire, respectively.
"He was an outstanding man and a very polite, generous guy to talk to," Rodgers said. "He was always helping to promote umpiring to the next generation because the younger groups are needed to continue on for the ones getting older. It was unique to have a man who was a superintendent umpire summer and college games. I hate to see him go like this, it was before his time. He is going to be missed."
Long accomplished a lot of achievements during his tenure at Palestine, including aiding the development of the new fitness center, which was added to the southeast area of the high school. Long and Waldrop opened the center's doors to the public in February.
Back in October, Long also expressed an interest in creating an educational hall of fame for the district, to honor past faculty members.
"I'd like to start a Palestine Education Hall of Fame," Long said. "My idea would be to have a banner on a wall at the high school, and we recognize those people at graduation. At graduation that person, or a family member, would accept a plaque from the district, and their names would be added to a banner that will be displayed in the high school gymnasium.
Chris is survived by his wife, Sheryl of Sigel; children, Abbie (Jared) Massengill of Effingham, Baylie (Ricky) Goforth of Springfield, Caleb (Meg) of Mattoon and Demmie (Sawyer) James of Indianapolis, Ind.; grandson, Jaxson Goforth; brother, Sheldon (Melanie) Long of Decatur; sister, Cathy (Ron) Lee of Springfield, Tenn., as well as many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at Bauer Funeral Home in Effingham with Pastor Bob Ward officiating. Visitation will be held from 11 a.m. to time of service, Saturday at the funeral home. Memorial donations may be given to Palestine High School for a scholarship fund in Long's honor.
In respect for Long and to allow the administration, board and staff time to process and grieve this loss, Palestine will move the June board meeting to June 24 at 6 p.m.