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Santa Monica Loses Long Ties to Its Past

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 21, 2013 -- Robert Zoven Long -- who opened Santa Monica's first Pep Boys Auto Supply and was a long-time volunteer with Meals on Wheels West -- died Sunday from complications after a fall. He was 96 years old.

Robert enjoys a meal (photo courtesy of Chris Long)

Born Zoven Ouzoonian in downtown Los Angeles in 1916 to immigrant parents from modern-day Armenia, Long moved to Santa Monica in 1939 when he was tapped by Pep Boys to manage its first store in the beachside city. He remained manager at the store until 1975.

After retiring, Long remained active in his adopted city, volunteering for Meals on Wheels from 1995 until 2008, packing meals for other volunteers and delivering meals in his trademark 70s Buick Riviera.

“I want to be just like him when I grow up,” said Kevin McNulty, associate executive director of Meals on Wheels West. “He was a gentleman to the maximum.”

Said Director of Operations at Meals on Wheels West Joanna Vasquez, “He was a joker; he was always happy.”

“He was always my Bobby,” she said.

A veteran of World War II, Long served under General George Patton, following the legendary commander through France and, eventually, to Berlin.

After the war, he settled down with his new wife and returned to managing the Pep Boys store.

“Robert Long was like a historian for Santa Monica,” said McNulty. “He would talk about what Santa Monica was like before they built the freeway.”

In 1962, Long was forced to sell his home on Kansas Avenue to make way for the new Santa Monica Freeway. He got $20,000 for it, said his son, Chris Long.

“He scrimped and saved” to buy the $29,000 house on Bryn Mawr Avenue in Sunset Park, where he lived until his death, Chris Long said.

Long's wife, Elsie, died in 1990 and five years later, he decided to volunteer with Meals on Wheels West, an organization that delivers meals those unable to leave their homes.

“He came twice a week,” Vasquez said. “Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

Vasquez said that he used to show up at the office “religiously,” helping get the bundles together for other volunteers to deliver to the organization's elderly clients.

Once he turned 92, however, he stopped delivering meals and became a client.

“He realized it wasn't appropriate for him to drive,” McNulty said.

One of the last times McNulty saw Long was when the 96-year-old stopped by the office during the holidays. Even though he was home-bound, Long had talked a friend into driving him to the office.

“He just wanted to say Merry Christmas to all of us,” McNulty said. “We considered him family.”

His immediate family includes son Stephen Long (wife Darlene Long, daughter Jennifer Philipsen, son-in-law Curtiss Philipsen) and son Christopher Long (wife Susan Long, daughter Alexandra Long).

A funeral service for Long will be held Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Gates Kingsley & Gates Murphy Moeller mortuary. Long will be at Woodlawn Cemetery.


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