By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
FLOURTOWN – If you arelooking for James Longon and his wife Ann during the winter months, they won’t be in St. Genevieve Parish. They’ll be snowbirding in Ave Maria, Fla., in the community former pizza baron Thomas Monaghan has developed around his Ave Maria University.
“We love it and can’t wait to go,” said Longon, 64, adding he and Ann both audited courses at Ave Maria during their stay last winter.
He’s come a long way from Michigan and Ohio where he grew up. His college years were at Villanova and it was during that time he met “a beautiful girl,” Ann Trymbiski.
She was from a classic Catholic family: 11 kids with parents who believed a caring family includes grandparents. “All four of her grandparents died at their house,” Longon said.
After college he went to work in sales with Burroughs Corp. Married in 1967, he and his wife raised two daughters, Annie and Mary. In 1982, he started his own business, HQ Co., a real estate franchise. Two years ago he sold the business and, theoretically, retired.
All of his life Longon was a practicing Catholic – he went to church and did the things a family man has to do, but some time in his early 50s he came to realize there is something more to life than paying the bills and cutting the grass, and that something was God.
It started in a nonsectarian way, through Promise Keepers, an organization for men trying to be better husbands and fathers. A real turning point came at a pro-life dinner when Longon was seated at the same table with Paul and Barbara Henkels, both committed Catholics.
Paul Henkels must be quite a salesman – he talked Longon into joining the Stewards of St. John Neumann, the leadership group which assists Catholic charities in Philadelphia.
Later Henkels talked him into joining Legatus, the Catholic business executives’ group founded by Monaghan, and finally he talked him into joining the Stewards of St. Peter, the group that assists the Papal Foundation.
Longon found himself no longer a casual Catholic but a committed Catholic.
He didn’t just join Legatus – he became president of the group. He also became active as treasurer for Regina Coeli Academy, Wyndmoor and its daughter institution, Regina Angelorum Academy, Wynnewood.
“Faith is paramount to the schools. The kids are really taught their faith,” he said. “It’s really something when you see the little kids praying in the classrooms and their joy.”
Longon’s also Grand Knight of Flourtown’s Santa Maria Council 283, Knights of Columbus. It’s one of the grand old councils founded in Philadelphia in the 1890s. Though it is now diminished in size, he hopes to bring it back to its former glory. While Longon’s schedule doesn’t always allow daily Mass and Communion, you will find him in church most mornings.
All of this sounds like a lot of activity for a man who is supposedly retired.
“Actuarial tables say I have only about 15 years to live,” Longon said. “Ann and I realize God puts you on earth only for a term. My number one goal is to get myself to heaven and my number two goal is to get my wife to heaven, and she feels the same way in reverse.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.