Politicians across Sangamon County and Illinois shared fond memories about the life of county GOP chair and former Sangamon County Board member Rosemarie Long, following her death Wednesday at Peoria’s Kindred Hospital from COVID-19 at the age of 78.
The county party released a statement on Facebook remembering their fallen chair as a “happy warrior” who paved the way for dozens of politicians and community leaders across the county to reach for higher office.
“Her greatest delight was in supporting the efforts of others, especially younger people who shared her values,” the party said. “Never one for grandstanding, Rose recruited, encouraged, championed and counseled so many of our most able community leaders.”
Sangamon County Administrator Brian McFadden said that Long had been someone who had created a team approach to the county party, leading it in the manner of someone who remained true to herself no matter which role that she was in, whether it was the party chair or as a member of the Sangamon County Board, where she had served from 1992 to 2010.
“She was always Rose,” McFadden said. “There’s never a hidden agenda or a hidden personality. It was always her and she was always genuine, sincere, kind and caring. (She was a) hard worker, extremely focused (and) that was part of her great success.”
McFadden said that he was fortunate to be one of the people that Long had trusted in running the county Republicans, speaking with her regularly on a wide range of issues from candidate recruitment, public events, party structure and field operations.
“She would seek out a lot of people’s advice on things,” McFadden said. “I think I was fortunate just to be one of those people.”
Former Sangamon County circuit clerk and former party chair Tony Libri remembered Long as someone who worked hard and was dedicated to making the party as strong as it could be.
“She lived and breathed this chairman’s job,” Libri said. “She’s honest, she’s loyal, she’s all the things that you would look for in a friend, and certainly all the things that you would look for in a mentor.”
Libri remembered the times that the two of them spent at the party’s nightly potluck dinners during the Illinois State Fair, where a packed house at their headquarters across the street from the main gate had the chance to mix and mingle.
“We had 100 people in and out (each day) during the fair,” Libri said. “(It was) just doing things that brought the local Republicans all together.”
The current circuit clerk, Paul Palazzolo, said that Long was a leader and someone who made sure that the party emphasized the virtues of good government.
“Bottom line: She was a leader with heart,” Palazzolo said. “She cared about people, she cared about good government, (and) she cared about delivering for citizens who needed to use government services. I think that sums it all up.”
Palazzolo remembered the many after-meeting desserts that she would have at Fulgenzi’s, in which she dined on her favorite: a hot fudge sundae.
“She loved ice cream sundaes,” Palazzolo said. “That would be the best memory (for me): a group of 10 people enjoying each other’s company with hot fudge sundaes at Fulgenzi’s.”
Rep. Tim Butler, R‑Springfield, tweeted Wednesday that without Long’s encouragement, he would not be in his current role as a state representative.
“Jovial, hard working, a staunch Republican, and a tremendous believer in the power of family, she was one of a kind,” Butler said. “St. Peter, greet her warmly. You have a good one now. God speed my friend.”
Even some Democrats shared fond memories of Long and her illustrious career. Springfield Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner, who also serves as Sangamon County Democratic chair, said that Long was a friend who would be missed, having built their relationship through a decade serving together on the county board and their friendly competition as rival party chairs.
“Rose and I became very friendly and worked on a lot of issues that affected our community,” Turner said. “She was a fantastic public servant and family woman and she will definitely be missed.”
State GOP chairman Tim Schneider said that Long helped to make an impact on the community and the party through her work in addition to being a kind woman of the utmost character.
“When I think about someone who exemplifies the perfect union of a kind heart, genuine character, and commitment to a cause — I think of Rosemarie Long,” Schneider said in a statement. “Sangamon County, Central Illinois, and the statewide Republican Party have lost a giant.”
She leaves behind her husband Jack and two sons, Brad and Brian. The sons remembered their mother as someone who made family and her Italian cooking foremost in her life and theirs.
“She really put family first,” Brad said. “We wouldn’t be as close-knit a family as we are without her as the matriarch.”