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Jim Furlong

Photo #5329 | Jim FurlongEarly yesterday morning I found out that my dear friend from Virginia passed away this weekend, a man who was a mentor and even father figure to me. He was Jim Furlong, a filmmaker for PBS and the original cameraman/AV guy for MacNeil/Lehrer and many other PBS shows. We traveled together throughout the US and flew gliders together across the Mid-Atlantic and Deep South .

 The week of 9/11 he was scheduled to be in a reading at the Folger Shakespeare Library (beautiful place across the street from the Supreme Court) but the event of course was cancelled until October. Paul Auster – diverting from his New York books – began a series on NPR where everyday Americans shared stories. The series ended up with a book published by Morrow called I Thought My Father was God.

Jim was in that anthology with this very short piece Riding with Andy. This gives you an idea of the humor and just simple charm of the man. He was a Catholic in the truest sense of the word – not just in faith but in everyday actions. In a decade of knowing him and almost daily visits and conversations when I was in Virginia, I never once saw him get angry. And he was an outstanding pilot, one of the very best pilots I’ve seen in 26 years of flying. He was nicknamed Fearless Furlong by the glider club we were in. I will always remember watching him smoothly land his PIK-20 sailplane in a small square of grass next to a runway in a heavy Mid-Atlantic crosswind that would have scared most pilots, including me. He helped me meet filmmakers, editors and publishers and encouraged me in my flying also and made me a better mechanic at planes and cars.

I only send this not for expectation of any consolatory words but to share this short piece of Jim’s writing I gave to my English class last night and to say this: it had been months since I talked to Jim. I knew he was sick. I found out now that mutual acquaintances were trying to reach me through old email accounts I never checked to call Jim because they knew he would want to hear from me and that his time was limited. And for the past month I kept verbalizing to myself and family that I needed to call Jim. And I didn’t for some strange lazy fear and of course I now have profound regret. My lesson again and again to not delay what is easily done.



Services will be held Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 11:00 AM  at Whitefriars Hall 1600 Webster St, NE, Washington, DC 20017

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Posted: 10/22/2009

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