Northville educator ‘big on helping other people’
Dave Longridge spent his entire educational career in Northville Public Schools. And in nearly 40 years, he left a lasting impression on the students, staff and others who crossed his path.
“He was just engaged in the school community — a strong leader, advocate for kids, a great model for teachers, kids and families,” said his colleague, Mary Kay Gallagher, the district’s superintendent.
Mr. Longridge, a longtime educator and coach, died Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. He was 83.
His career dates to 1960, when he started teaching while studying at Eastern Michigan University, said his daughter, Karen Cullen.
Mr. Longridge also was involved in district athletics. For leading a team to Michigan High School Athletic Association championships in the 1961-62 season, the Pontiac News named him Oakland County’s “Basketball Coach of the Year,” relatives said.
He later transitioned into administration, becoming an assistant principal at Northville High School from 1968-74, then principal at what was then Cooke Junior High through 1985, relatives and district officials said.
Until his retirement in 1997, Mr. Longridge also led Meads Mill Middle School.
Throughout his career, he stayed dedicated, whether waiting hours for buses to belatedly return from a field trip at night; performing the Heimlich maneuver on students who were choking; even driving, rather than flying, materials down to a conference in the South.
“He was a hands-on administrator and he was a hands-on person,” said Sharon Pernia, who worked with him for more than 20 years. “He walked his walk. The things that he did demonstrated what he believed in.”
Mr. Longridge, who was named Michigan’s Secondary School Principal of the Year in 1995, also went above and beyond for his staff.
“He was a great mentor for me,” said Bryan Masi, who worked with him at Meads Mill and now is the district’s athletic director. “He put the trust in us to do our jobs and he let us go with our ideas. Just a great leadership style that allowed us to do our very best as teachers and coaches.”
Mr. Longridge’s team spirit mirrored the skills he honed as an athlete.
Born June 19, 1933, he grew up in Dearborn and attended the city’s Fordson High School, where he won varsity letters in football and basketball, relatives said.
He played basketball while serving in the Navy from 1952-56 and football at EMU, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, his daughter said.
Settling in Northville, he relished his role as a coach and administrator, Cullen said. “He was a people-person. He just loved kids. He wasn’t sitting behind the desk and unknown. … He was always big on helping other people.”
Mr. Longridge also was active at First Presbyterian Church of Northville and loved helping with an annual “Old Timers Luncheon.”
Another interest: supporting his grandchildren’s sports pursuits. “They were a bright spot in life,” said his wife of 57 years, Marge.
Other survivors include a son, David; five grandchildren; a sister, Carole Rankin; and several nieces and nephews.
A memorial service was held Thursday. Memorials may be made to the Northville Educational Foundation.