By Elaine Ubiña
Photographs by ChiChi Ubiña

Kaylie met her husband, Jeff while working on Richard Blumenthal’s first campaign for the U.S. Senate. “I knew who he was when we were growing up, he was the cool older class president. He definitely didn’t know who I was!” Kaylie Hanson Long is a communications professional with experience leading successful media strategies at the national and local level. Kaylie grew up in Greenwich. She attended Greenwich Academy and the University of Michigan.

Jeff Long grew up in New York City and moved to Westchester County to attend Brunswick School, in Greenwich, for high school. Jeff was a leader for whom his community came first. He was an only child and gave his all to the various communities in his life. His Brunswick School friends were like brothers to him. He served as president of Brunswick School his senior year. Duncan Edwards, headmaster during Jeff’s time at the school says, “ Jeff was special – beloved – and one of most generous and caring people.” The friends and faculty at both Hamilton College and the University of Virginia were also deeply important to him and he went above and beyond to serve those institutions as well. In each of these communities, teachers were close with students. Parents found support just as the students did, and they all gave back to their respective towns.

Jeff and Kaylie settled in Washington, DC, after their beautiful Greenwich wedding in 2016. Jeff managed state and local sales development for a technology company providing early alert information to government agencies. He enjoyed running, biking and homebrewing. Kaylie reminisces, “we bonded over the simple things: love of our families, goofy jokes and sense of humor, our shared appreciation for our communities, respect for one another, and later, our dog Layla. We cheered each other on, laughed a lot, and loved each other very much.”

Kaylie lost Jeff in 2018, when he was hit and killed by a semi-truck while riding his bike in Washington, DC. Her world was turned upside down. Over the last two years, Kaylie has grieved and day-by-day looks for the light at the end of the tunnel. She writes candidly that she is learning many lessons during this time. “Jeff’s death rocked our community, and in many ways we are still feeling our way around in the dark as we navigate different elements of loss no one tells you about. I have been heartened to see that so many people have become more open and honest with their own emotions after loss. I feel so grateful that many of his friends have worked hard to develop their own relationship with me after Jeff’s accident – not as ‘Jeff’s wife,’ but as their actual friend, Kaylie. That has meant the world to me.”

One of Jeff’s passions was The Waterside School, where Duncan Edwards has been Executive Director for 20 years. Jeff was in Duncan’s last graduating class at Brunswick. The Waterside School is a privately funded Pre-K through 5th grade independent school serving children and families regardless of limitations in income or circumstance. “The Waterside School emphasizes community in the same way – in the way Jeff loved. Teachers go above and beyond for their students, parents get involved in major ways, helping to ensure their kids’ success. Everyone is connected and rooting each other on. But at Waterside, the stakes are higher. The students and families at Waterside face obstacles that most people in our area could never understand. So the commitment to community has to be stronger, especially from those in a position to support the school financially,” says Kaylie.

Kaylie has found solace in her community service at Waterside School. “The kids at Waterside are future leaders in their own communities and, I believe, the country. Spending time with them as I’ve volunteered over the years has made that clear. They’re not just passionate learners dedicated to academic excellence, they approach their communities with respect, enthusiasm, and a drive to leave things better than they found it – just as Jeff did. Seeing people come together to support Waterside during the 5K in Jeff’s honor touches me every year. Even this year, the virtual 5K had so many participants running to support the school – we actually hit a number of new milestones even though we couldn’t run together.”

“Early in loss, my friend taught me to try and ‘find new horizon lines.’ This season, most people are feeling loss of some kind – loss of a loved one, of tradition, of a job. Most people have faced a mental health challenge this year. My advice: do something different, find that new horizon line. Volunteering and fundraising can be done socially distanced. Go on a hike in Northwest CT. Try playing a board game you’ve always wanted to play. Another friend cancelled her traditional Thanksgiving and chose to spend the day making donuts, because she always wanted to try that.”

Break out of your comfort zone this holiday season. It always feels good to give back to our community.