Laura Anne Long

Published 1:22 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2024

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Laura Long passed away on January 25th, 2024, following a brief battle with late-stage cancer, surrounded by her brothers, William and Robert, her sisters-in-law Anne and Marijke, and nieces and nephews including Alexander, Anna, Sarah, Court, Henry, Dwayne, Kempton, Estelle, Courtney, Alison and Emma.

Laura lived her life to the fullest. Born in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on March 19th, 1956, to parents William and Mary Long, Laura was deemed mentally handicapped from an early age. She spent her life wearing that badge proudly as an example of how a strong will and a supportive family and community can help one to transcend such a challenge.

Laura was educated at Whitten Village, in Clinton, South Carolina, where she taught herself to read, where she improved her “legally blind” eyesight by doing cross-stitch handwork, and where she found her singing voice. Her voice would carry her forth for the remainder of her life.

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Her singing was discovered and encouraged by her godmother, Katherine “Katie” Pfohl, a professor of music at what was then Winthrop College in Rock Hill. Aunt Katie’s role was later filled by Rock Hill’s Bettye Rawls who coached Laura lovingly for many years.

Laura and her parents spent the school year in Rock Hill and the summer months in Manteo on the North Carolina Outer Banks where the Long family was involved with The Lost Colony Outdoor Drama in many capacities. In her late 20’s, Laura presented her first Summer Recital in Manteo. This tradition continued for the next thirty-seven summers, with a well-attended vocal concert on the last Sunday of each July. In her 30’s, Laura was an inspiration for and a co-founder of the Merry Prankster’s Theatre Company in Rock Hill, established to involve handicapped individuals of all ages and capabilities in the performance of popular musical theatre productions adapted for these unique performers. These were delightful and light-hearted productions, and Laura, the perennial ingenue, was always the female lead.

In the late 1980s, Laura joined the Lost Colony production where she portrayed a colonist woman and sang with the Lost Colony choir. She performed with the production for over thirty summers and made an enduring impact on many cast members as the “Lamprey Lady” and backstage comedienne.

Following the deaths of her parents in 1998, Laura remained in the family home in Rock Hill with live-in support and spent her summers in Manteo. In 2010, she moved permanently to Manteo where she soon became a regular figure throughout the quaint Old Town neighborhood. Very much the “social butterfly”, Laura would drop regularly by the coffee shops, bookstore, sandwich shop, yarn shop, her beauty shop, and the local movie theatre. Laura was a member of Mount Olivet United Methodist Church where she sang in the choir. In addition to her singing, Laura was an avid knitter and weaver. She was a proud graduate in 2014 of the Pace Program at the College of The Albemarle in Manteo.

She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Roanoke Island Historical Association in 2021. In 2022, Laura was honored with the Keeper of the Dream award for her service to the Lost Colony production and her inspiration to so many summer performers of all ages. She and her unbounded spirit will be remembered.

A memorial celebration will be held on the 4th of July this summer in Manteo. Donations in her memory can be made to the Outer Banks Conservationist not-for-profit organization.