Mr. Longenecker

I finally found him.

After all these years, it turned out to be a missing 'E' that kept me from contacting him sooner!  Sheesh!

I think the letter is pretty self-explanatory.

Dear Mr. Longenecker,

Since you've brought hundreds of children so much joy and instilled in them a respect for and awe of nature and all her bounty, I do not expect you to remember me at all. But I remember you very fondly, and thought you should know the impact you've had on so many lives, both human and non-human over the years.

In 1976, I was a 9-year-old fifth grader at Rankin Elementary in West Asheville. I was quiet and bullied pretty much on a daily basis. Even though I always made good grades (straight A's throughout school, except for Algebra...) and loved my teacher, Mrs. Foster, I usually just went through the motions and kept to myself, except for when you would come to visit us. I remember two such occasions very well, because I was the only one to volunteer to help with the animals you brought.

The first occasion was the flying squirrel moment, as one of the little guys was hellbent on burrowing underneath my shirt. I didn't mind at all, as I had already decided early on in life that it wasn't the non-human Earthlings you had to worry about. They just do what they do, and we're merely clueless guests who hope we can get through without messing up the place too much. I was delighted by the flying squirrels and drew them on everything for months after you brought them.

The other occasion was the day you brought Elizabeth, the boa constrictor. No one in the class wanted to be anywhere near her, despite your assurances that she wasn't slimy, but I'd always had an affinity for reptiles and loved their cool, soft scales. Elizabeth was an exceptional experience for me. I remember you had to get one of the stronger boys in the class to help you unwind her from around me. You probably saved my life that day, because I would have just let you continue to coil until it was too late!

Even though I went on to work in the music business for almost 20 years, I have always been active in animal rescue, particularly birds and cats. After I left BMG Entertainment, I went back to school for an associates degree in veterinary technology, and worked with my longtime vet in Upstate, SC, for a while.

Now, I'm in San Diego, and am networking to hopefully return to animal rescue out here, specifically reptiles and camelids (I adore llamas, you just have no idea). I have a rescue dog, with whom no one had the patience or inclination to handle. He's a deer chihuahua named Toby, and he's my difficult foster child. I also have one cat I misnamed Smidgen. She's a 14 lb. ginger/white stubby Manx who lost her mother at the age of just under 5 weeks. When she came to me 10 years ago, I was fostering around 30 cats, and had three dogs.

People out here are very keen on the well-being of animals, and I appreciate that sentiment more than I can express. Despite that, I want to someday return to my hometown of Asheville, and try to bring that passion with me.

I just wanted to thank you for everything you did then and are doing now. I wanted to make sure you knew that what you do *does* have an impact, and that you've probably saves hundreds of lives sharing your passion for our planet.

So, thank you, Mr. Longenecker. On behalf of all of us who've been touched by your magic, thank you very much indeed.

  • Current Location: Home
  • Current Mood: grateful grateful
  • Current Music: Daft Punk - Giorgio by Moroder
He actually did! And I wrote back. And he wrote me again, and said he hoped we could continue communicating. I'm penpals with one of my heroes. Again!