Samuel J. Long Jr., 71, a retired manager in the engraving department of The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, died Thursday, Dec. 9, of respiratory failure at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Mr. Long worked for 34 years for the newspapers, which are now owned by Philadelphia Media Network. He signed on in the fall of 1966 as an engraver and worked his way up to manager of the department in April 1992 and, finally, engraving systems manager.

He was second in command in the prepress department at the company's headquarters at 400 N. Broad St. in Philadelphia.

The department was responsible for processing Inquirer and Daily News pages, sending them via fiber-optic lines to the printing plant in Conshohocken.

The work was stressful and detail-oriented and became increasingly technical with the advent of color printing in the mid-1990s.

Through it all, Mr. Long adapted, even though he was color-blind, said his son, Samuel III.

"He was as good as anybody, if not better," his son said.

Scott McPartland reported to Mr. Long in the company's prepress department from 1999 to 2000, when McPartland was manager of the company's plate room in Conshohocken.

McPartland called Mr. Long "a very decent" boss. "He was thorough and fair-minded," McPartland said.

Mr. Long suffered a severe heart attack in 1999 that sidelined him for several months, McPartland recalled, but returned to work before retiring in December 2000.

Charles R. Bradley, a retired engraver who worked with Mr. Long for 30 years starting in 1966, said that outside work, Mr. Long had a small business; he drove South Philadelphia residents two days a week from their homes to a bingo game at Broad and Wood Streets just north of Center City. "He was always hustling," Bradley said.

Mr. Long was born and raised in South Philadelphia, graduating from John Bartram High School in 1957. He learned his craft on the job and from reading, his son said.

"Book after book after book, he brought home; he was self-taught," his son said.

Surviving, in addition to his son, are his wife, the former Carol Ann LaRocca; a daughter, Colleen; four grandchildren; and a sister.

A viewing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14, at the Stolfo Funeral Home, 2536 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, followed by a Funeral Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Richard Roman Catholic Church, 19th and Pollock Streets, Philadelphia. Burial will be in New St. Mary Cemetery, 515 W. Browning Rd., Bellmawr, N.J. 08031.

Contact staff writer Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or bcook@phillynews.com.