Duluth News Tribune (Minn.)
John Coe Langdon, 84, died on Dec. 6, 2008, at Solvay Hospice House after a 15-month battle with lymphoma.
John was born on March 24, 1924, in Decatur, Ill., to Ernest and Lily Langdon.
He was the oldest of four children: Mary, Madonna, and Stuart. They were all trained in music at an early age and played together as a quartet. He was home-schooled until high school, where he became the senior class president. He attended Wabash College and then Millikin University until 1942, when he enlisted in the Navy to avoid being drafted. He was commissioned and married to Mardelle Burns, from Monticello, Ill., on the same day: Nov. 22, 1942. He served on a naval troop carrier in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, shipping in and out of San Francisco, a city he came to love.
He wanted so much to live on the ocean, but after the war he and Delle moved back to Illinois, and he finished his undergraduate degree at Millikin in 1947. He became involved with the Civil Rights Movement when the music fraternity to which he belonged would not allow a black student to join. He was very active in leading the movement on campus, and arranged for Paul Robeson to come to campus to speak and sing despite controversy.
He received his Master's degree in psychology from the University of Illinois in 1950, was then hired by the U of I's student counseling service, and worked there as a counselor through the 1950s and mid-60s. He and Delle had a son, Mark, and daughter, Marcia. The marriage ended in 1964.
In 1966 he married Delores (Lorie) Shields, from New Castle, Penn., in the Unitarian Church in Urbana and they moved to Duluth, another city on the water. They had a daughter, Maureen. He worked at the Human Development Center, an agency delivering mental health services in the Arrowhead Region. He held forward-looking ideas for that time, developing and leading the School Consultation Program to improve mental health services for kids in public and private schools. From 1972-76 he moved to Kenosha, Wis., to be the director of Mental Health for Kenosha County, then returned to his beloved Duluth in 1976, after Lorie died. He was married to Joan Mongreig 1977-81.
John started at the Duluth Public Schools in 1976 and retired in 1989. He was described as a staunch advocate for children; kind, respectful and thoughtful when working with children. He searched for significant information well beyond psychometrics when assessing children. He was very sensitive, considerate and understanding when reporting findings and counseling parents. He was always helpful in resolving inter-staff issues and well-respected by colleagues who sought his advice.
After retirement he continued to serve his community. He gave generously to many charities dedicated to the poor, the environment and progressive social and political issues. He was on countless committees at the First Unitarian Church of Duluth (now UUCD) where he was a member for 42 years. He served on the advisory board to the HDC, on the task force charged with the conversion of services from the state hospital to the community. He was also on the state board of directors for the Minnesota Mental Health Association, a non-profit advocacy organization for patients and families devoted to improving mental health services and changing policy through legislation. He fought for Minnesota legislation requiring that mental health and chemical dependency services have parity with other ailments in health insurance coverage, which has now passed at the federal level.
In 1987, he realized his dream of living on an ocean of sorts, when he was finally able to buy a house on Lake Superior in Knife River. He loved living on the lake and in the woods and was able to live at home until only a few weeks before his death. John was loving, vibrant, ethical, generous, and passionate about family, friends, music, social justice, the natural world, and spreading joy. His light will burn in every person whose life he touched.