Even though she may have gotten a disproportionately larger share of the “hard-to-teach” students, she thought they could all be winners.

Dorothy LaVerne Agurs “Tootsie” Long, an inspiring teacher for 32 years, died August 4, 2011 at Carolinas Medical Center of a cerebrovascular disease. She was buried on Tuesday, August 2 – her 66th birthday, witnessed by several hundred of her family, friends and former students.

“She was a good teacher,” said her brother, John Agurs. “She was good with her students and helped kids reach their potential. She was spunky and had the courage to tell you what was on her mind. She wasn’t rude, but she didn’t hold back!”

Tootsie was a 1963 graduate of West Charlotte High School and later of Johnson C. Smith University. It was at JCSU that she decided to become a teacher and where in 1965 she met Leroy Long, who would become her life partner.

Her smile and her distinctive laughter attracted Leroy. She was a “city girl,” and Leroy was a small-town boy from Cheraw, S.C. He was so smitten that he couldn’t remember the movie they saw on their first date at the Manor Theater. They wed in 1970 and welcomed daughter Rhonda to the family.

“She was a genuine, hard-working person who loved children,” Leroy said. “She was sweet, loving and was a kind soul to everybody; she had no cross words. She was a good cook and had a special way of making macaroni and cheese.”

“I wish I could make things like she made them.” said Rhonda. “She would get me to come stir, come cut, and before I realized it, I learned how to cook.”

Tootsie got her masters degree in education in 1988 and went to UNCC while teaching.

“She inspired me to go further than an undergraduate,” her daughter said.

Rhonda watched as her mom struggled and spent nights at the library doing research.

“I helped Mom grade papers, and if she had not done her masters, I might not have done mine.” Rhonda’s degrees are in electrical engineering and systems engineering.

Tootsie taught grades four through six at Sedgefield, Westerly Hills, Reed Park and Paw Creek elementary schools,” Rhonda said.

“She spent lots of time with her kids,” the daughter added. “She said she thought the principal gave her most of the kids who needed more discipline than others. She’d get frustrated, but at the end of the year, she’d feel better. She knew they needed more discipline and structure.”

Beulah Rattley, Tootsie’s sister and best friend said, “She always wanted to be a teacher and was a big inspiration to my son Kelvin. She was like a third mother. She was a big help to me for my son. She was always interested and tried to help people, especially in education.”

Tootsie was also interested and involved in her church, Clinton Chapel AME Zion, where she was a longtime member.

“She taught Sunday school and started the church’s Historical Room,” Rhonda said. “It went back 200 years, and she helped put that together and led it for many years. She was involved with Black History Month every February.”

Always the teacher, always the helper; that was Dorothy “Tootsie” Long.

Editor’s note: This is our series called Lives That Matter. Written by Charlotte writer Gerry Hostetler, this weekly feature will profile individuals, recently deceased, who had a positive impact on those around them. Email editor@qcitymetro.com.

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