John F. Long

John F. Long

John F. Long (1920 - 2008) was an unassuming, yet supremely confident man whose character was forged by the tough times of the Depression. While others may have seen him as a visionary perfectionist whose innovative building techniques spread from his native Arizona around the world, and a humanitarian whose philanthropy was equally far reaching, Long described himself as a bit of a ‘lone wolf’, an ordinary, hard-working man who, when he saw something that needed to be done, did it.

Like so many Americans of his generation, John F. Long’s success was the product of hard work, ingenuity, and a little luck. He was the first child of German immigrant parents who came to the Valley in the 1910s, met, and married. “We wouldn’t have dreamed of asking for money,” Long recalled. “We learned to work for what we got. I had my first job at age 8 selling the Phoenix Gazette in front of the old Lightning Delivery building at Central and Jefferson, where Patriot’s Park is now.”

The death of his father and the subsequent loss of the family store only accelerated this learning process. A boyhood spent on a farm taught him how to work with his hands and reinforced the value of such work. Many years later Long said, “Those early years conditioned me for the “real” world. The better conditioned a person is for the real world, the better they can adjust to it. Sure it can be real brutal – that’s life. We didn’t have much, and so I never expected much. I think this was beneficial, though it sure didn’t seem like it at the time.” After graduating from Glendale High School, and with the effects of the Great Depression still lingering, he road the rails, "grabbing a handful of boxcars," searching for work. Pearl Harbor ended all of that. Uncle Sam soon found him a job as an engine mechanic on B-17s and B-24s, eventually seeing duty in Italy.

Mustered out of the service after WWII, Long returned home, unsure of the future. He married his sweetheart, Mary Tolmachoff, whom he’d met at age 17 while watching her play softball for the Webster’s Dairy girls' team. Mary was also a first generation Arizonan whose parents were part of a group of Russian émigrés who came to farm the land around Glendale in the years before World War I.

With a G.I. loan, his own hammer, and other tools he borrowed from his stepfather, John and Mary set to work building a home for themselves. “We did it the hard way,” remembered Long, “learning as we went along. It took us 6 months and cost $4,000 to build, and before it was finished we were offered $8,400 for it.” With profits like that to be made, the Longs decided to stick with homebuilding a little longer.

Mary was promised the next house. And then, the one after that. But the post-war housing boom was on, and it was not until three years and numerous houses later that Mary finally got her own home. Soon enough, there were three children to look after. Manya, Shirley, and Jake didn’t leave much time for hammering nails, and Mary’s hands-on building days were done.

"I didn’t have any intention of getting into homebuilding in a big way and I didn’t do any market research,” says Long. “We tried with each house to build it better and easier. Soon it just seemed the thing to do.”

It is with this history of integrity and great character that Long led the company now known as John F. Long Properties LLLP.