John F. Long, the developer who built the first master-planned community in Arizona, Maryvale, and donated land for schools, community centers and parks, died Friday of congestive heart failure. He was 87.
Long is best known for the community of Maryvale, which he named after his wife. If not for his construction of the west Phoenix neighborhood in 1954, communities like Youngtown, Sun City, Anthem and other master-planned areas may have never some to pass.
“He came up with a very unique idea,” said Carol St. Clair of his efficient home building methods. “His homes were quality and still are.”
Maryvale is not what it once was, but that is no fault of Long’s, St. Clair said.
“When it was created it was special,” she said.
Long graduated from Glendale High School before he was called to serve his country. He served in World War II as engine mechanic on B-17s and B-24s, eventually seeing duty in Italy. He turned to home building after he returned from his service. He married his long-time sweetheart Mary and went to work building them a home. When he completed it and was offered more than double what it cost to build, he promised his bride the next home they built. Three years and numerous houses later his family finally settled in their own house.
“I didn’t have any intention of getting into home building in a big way and I didn’t do any market research,” Long said on his company’s web site. “We tried with each house to build it better and easier. Soon it just seemed the thing to do.”
With the success Long had achieved, he was never above giving his money to those in need.
For more than half a century, Long donated money, land and construction services to a number of causes, including affordable housing and rehabilitation for alcoholics.
“He was so generous with his money, especially in the city and with schools,” St. Clair said. “He never seemed to say ‘no’ to anyone.”
For the past 11 years Long helped support the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance with his philanthropic efforts.
“He donated over 36,000 to our food bank,” said St. Mary’s Director of Community Relations Cynde Cerf. “That money helped provide 252,000 meals to those in need.
“It’s not just a loss for us, but a loss for the community,” she said. “He has set a standard of giving that will be hard to match.”
Long twice offered up personal land to build a stadium for Arizona’s professional teams. He first tried to set aside land for a Major League Baseball stadium in 1993 and then in 2000 he offered up a parcel at 99th Avenue and Thomas Road for the Cardinals new stadium. Both times he was turned down and stadiums were built elsewhere.
Funeral services will be held March 10, but specific arrangements are pending.
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:
Hospice of the Valley, 1510 E. Flower Street, Phoenix, AZ, 85014