At 3:58 p.m. on March 24, 2020, Rev. Charles Rayburn Long Sr. passed this life and ascended to his heavenly home. It was the first separation of any significance his wife, Shirley Marie Butler Long, had experienced. Indeed, the bond between them was so tight that she followed his footsteps into glory 13 ½ hours later, poetically concluding a relationship of devotion exceeded by none.
Charles was born January 13, 1935, in Ballinger. He graduated from Ballinger High School in 1953 and Gulf Coast Bible College (now Mid-America Christian University) in 1957. Shirley was born on Feb. 13, 1936, in Santa Anna. She grew up in Coleman and graduated from Coleman High School in 1954 and Gulf Coast Bible College in 1958.
They were only 16 and 17 when they met at a church revival in her hometown of Coleman in 1952. They married in 1955 at the First Church of God in Houston, with their Bible College President, Max Gaulke officiating. Charles was ordained a minister in the Church of God/Anderson Indiana in 1958 and served the First Church of God Pear Ridge in Port Arthur, Queen Street Church of God in Shreveport Louisiana, First Church of God Odessa, and Hope First Church of God, Hope, Kentucky. In 1980, he was ordained into the Baptist Church and served multiple churches in the Austin area, including First Baptist Oak Hill, Allendale Baptist (Great Hills), and Fairview Baptist. Everywhere they served, their dedication to Jesus Christ was evident, and their life, more than their words, pointed others to Him.
If a friend or acquaintance were to be asked what word best defined them, the overwhelming consensus would be “love”. Their love was bestowed freely upon stranger, parishioner, friend or grandchild, but most conspicuously upon one another. Their relationship of 68 years was defined by mutual respect and compounding love. From the days of high school, they were an item – where one went, the other followed. Shirley served as pianist for many of Charles’ pastorates. When their children fell sick, he would allow her to rest while nurturing them himself. She served as counselor for the parishioners of churches he shepherded. During lean times, they started a housecleaning business together. When Charles’ health began to fail, Shirley transformed into the ideal caregiver, visiting his senior care facility seven days a week to feed him lunch. For them, there could be no more succinct eulogy than to say that their love for one another supported them through life, and their dedication to one another too strong for death to separate.
Charles was preceded in death by his parents, Andrew Jackson and Sallie Long; his sister, Sybil Watkins (Sherman); and brothers ,Andrew Jackson Jr. (Jack), Chester Aubrey (C.A.), Billy Joe, and Oliver Raymond (O.R.).
Shirley was preceded in death by her parents, Woodrow W. and Thelma Butler/Collier/Sheffield, and her stepfather Burrell Dee Collier. Dee and Thelma owned and operated The Lariat Ranchwear in Austin for years.
Shirley and Charles are both survived by their sons, Charles Rayburn Long Jr. of Austin, and Christopher Eric Long (Kristie) of Seneca, Missouri. They are also survived by eight grandchildren Zebulon, Apphia, Achaia, Caleb, Abigail, Abiah, Josiah, and Ethan.
Shirley is also survived by brother, Woodrow W. (Woody) Butler Jr. (Carolyn) of Johnson City; and her sisters, Brenda C. Campbell (Cimron) of Orange, Linda Kirby of Junction, and Rhonda Thomas (Curtis) also of Junction. Special mention goes out to their spiritual son, Mark Freeman, who served them selflessly for years.
A graveside service was held for Charles and Shirley on Saturday, March 28 in Evergreen Cemetery in Ballinger, with nephew, Rev. Harold Watkins presiding. A joint memorial service will be held in Austin at a later date.
Memorials can be donated to Stonebridge Health/Rehab at 11127 Circle Dr, Austin, TX 78736 where Charles lived his last two years. The family would like to thank Vickie, Michelle, Maria, Alison, Dipal, the entire administrative staff, nursing staff and kitchen staff for all their kindness, respect and love. Both Charles and Shirley came to view them as family. Special thanks also to Lange Funeral home who provided the most generous and efficient services possible.