By Sarah Fedele
They were just teenagers cruising Stratford when it all began. A set up by friends brought Duane and Julia together at a Burger King and the rest, as they say, is history. Over forty-six years of marriage, careers that took them out of state, family that brought them back to North Carolina, and their son, Monte, who blessed them with three grandchildren, 13-year-old Mercer, 10-year-old Lucy, and
7-year-old Phoebe. Love was never a question for Duane and Julia Long. But eventually, her heart did divide them.
It started with a family history of heart disease and a common heart murmur. Then in 2011, Julia started to experience AFIB, a quivering or irregular heartbeat. Her heart condition was treated with medication.
Julia was raised Moravian and in 2010 they became involved with the Kernersville Moravian Church. “The formality and traditions were a right fit for us,” shared Duane. Duane is the president of Long Insurance Services located on the recognizable corner of Salisbury St. and South Main St. in Kernersville. It is also very recognizable with the Moravian candles which light up every window of the building each night.
“Julia usually tried to avoid extra responsibilities in the community, but in 2012, she embraced it with a passion. She put her CPA degree to good use as the treasurer for the Kernersville Moravian Church’s Community Outreach Committee,” said Duane. She also joined the Kernersville Shepherd Center Board and became its treasurer as well.
“In 2016, Julia was on the maximum dosage of her heart medication and it just wasn’t working,” remembered Duane. On November 30th of that year, she had a cardiac ablation procedure to try to disrupt the faulty electrical signals in her heart. The physicians found one place that was causing the disruption, but they knew something was still wrong. “After six hours, the physicians threw their hands up in a ‘hallelujah’ when they found a second spot that was leading to Julia’s heart issue,” shared Duane.
After the surgery, Julia’s life was instantly improved. “She was so full of energy that she would just about jump out of bed every morning. She was loving life,” Duane said. “It was like we had rolled back the clock and she was in her late 30’s again.”
On December 10th, 10 days after her surgery, Julia and Duane, after keeping two of their granddaughters the evening before, went shopping and came home for a quick nap before they were planning to head to a charity event that night. “She laid down at around 4:30 p.m. and when I went into the bedroom to wake her up just over an hour later, she was gone,” remembered Duane. “It was like a switch had just been turned off. The covers on the bed where she lay were not even disturbed. She was peaceful.”
“This was not how it was supposed to go. It was not what we had prepared for. With our experience, it was the men who normally died first. Julia and I had prepared for what she would need to do when I passed away before her. It was not supposed to be that way. Now I have identified more friends who unfortunately have also lost their wives first,” said Duane.
After Julia passed away, the Kernersville Moravian Church and her friends on the committee wanted to do something to honor her. They decided to create “Julia’s Team” and walk in the Winston-Salem Heart & Stroke Walk. “We can’t change the past,” shared Duane. “But, we can help to change the future of others in our community.”
The 2018 Winston-Salem Heart & Stroke Walk, sponsored by Wake Forest Baptist Health and MedCost, will take place on Sunday, October 14 at Wake Forest Innovation Quarter at Bailey Park. Fun activities for the whole family begin at 1 p.m. and the 1 and 2-mile walk begins at 2:30 p.m. All the funds raised benefit heart disease and stroke research and prevention education. For more information, to form a team, or to donate to Julia’s Team, visit www.WinstonSalemHeartWalk.org.