Mike DeLong, great teacher and great guy

When students, staff and visitors to Sonoma Valley High School exit their cars and enter the school campus from the main south parking lot, the first thing they see is the Myron E. DeLong Library.

As each year goes by, there are fewer staff members at the school who knew Myron DeLong (known as Mike by his friends). Most students have no idea who he was. But his former students remember him with great fondness.

In the days when journalism was still recognized and accredited by the University of California, I took two journalism classes with Mike DeLong.

I spent a third year under his coaching as editor of The Dragon’s Tale, the school newspaper.

He was a kind and gentle man, but insistent that we master the basics of good writing in a journalistic style. He was enthusiastic and inspiring, and we never wanted to disappoint him by not doing our best.

Reflecting on that now, I would have benefited greatly if I had asked him to be my mentor when I returned to Sonoma after college and the Vietnam War to restart my newspaper career at the I-T.

Mike DeLong taught us to write economically, tell a good story and not waste words. He taught us there was more than one side to most issues.

Most of all, he made journalism fun and stimulating.

The journalistic style he ingrained in me wasn’t appreciated at UC, where there was no journalism major and my professors looked down upon that way of writing. Still, what I learned from Mike served me well in my choice of a career.

If there was ever a beloved teacher at SVHS, it was Mike DeLong. His students knew that he cared about them. He communicated that clearly. He was an outstanding speaker. I regret to this day that I didn’t take his public speaking class.

Because he was a friend to many, Mike had many friends. The best man at his wedding to his wife, Elizabeth, was Pete Rozelle, a classmate at USF, who went on to become the most notable commissioner of the NFL.

Another high school classmate was Duke Snyder, Dodger baseball great, who visited Mike in Sonoma whenever he was in the Bay Area.

But it was in Sonoma, where he spent his entire teaching career, that Mike made his most important contributions. In addition to being an outstanding teacher, he was Sonoma’s most vigorous advocate for local libraries.

Mike died in 1988 after teaching here for more than 35 years. His obituary was on the front page of the Index-Tribune for good reason.

Mike was not only a founding board member of the Sonoma County Library Commission, but also instrumental in the development of the current library here in Sonoma.

Whenever I visit my old high school here, and enter from the south side, I see his name on the library, remember him and smile. I wish there was a way that today’s students could know the man whose name is on their library.

Unless it’s there and I just couldn’t find it, a photo and brief biography about Mike DeLong are absent from the library dedicated in his memory.

Perhaps someone in the school district could fix that. I’d be glad to assist.