On a cold December day, December 2, 1925, a beautiful baby boy was born whose life would have a huge influence on all of those who knew and loved him.
JD was born to Steven Arthur and Bertha Shrum Langford on their family farm in Paw Paw, in southeast Oklahoma. Those were good times for the family, but the Arkansas River flooded and changed course, totally covering the family farm and the beautiful little community that surrounded it. Everything was a total loss. The family, consisting of Steven Arthur & Bertha, and children Vestal, Lloyd, Woody, Ruth Helen and the baby JD, moved to Henryetta, Oklahoma.
During the depression years, they struggled, but the parents and children were all a tight-knit family and quite inventive in finding ways to survive. As the older children bagan leaving home to begin their own lives, Ruth Helen and JD, who were much younger, stayed behind. JD and his sister Ruth Ellen would sing "specials" in church, with JD playing the guitar and singing lead, and Ruth Helen singing alto. JD found ways to help with the family income as he grew, riding his bicycle around peddling anything from radishes to scrap iron, fruit, ice, and even shining shoes. He delivered newspapers, mowed lawns, and even helped a lady hang her laundry out! When WWII was going full force, JD decided he was going to join the Navy. Since he was only 17, his parents agreed to sign papers allowing him to leave for training. JD traveled to the Orient on a Dutch ship, the Blumfontaine, then was transferred to the troop carrier USS Fuller where he served for the duration. The ship was engaged at Guadalcanal and in the invasion was bombed. The ship was repaired in 2 stages, first in New Zealand, and then at Oakland, California. It was there that JD Langford may have single-handedly carried off the only ship's mutiny in the US Fleet during WWII. This is JD's own words about the incident: "My ship was docked at the Mare Island Naval Repair Station in Oakland, California. One particular morning the ship was to be fumigated for rats and insects. I had the quartermaster's watch and was stations at the head of the gangplank to keep a log of everything that happened. About 7:50 a.m., I was bery busily checking names of crew members as they left the ship, to make sure no one was left aboard. Everyone was checked off and lined up on the dock at the foot of the gangplank. At 8:00 a.m., the bugle sounded to raise the American flag to the top of the mast. This was also my duty, so I hurriedly attached the flag to the lines and began raising it while the whole crew, including officers and Captain, stood at salute. When the flag hit the top of the mast, everyone including me, noticed it was UPSIDE DOWN! Very shortly, there was a red, white, and blue streak tracing the path as I frantically lowered the flag, passed it across the pulley, and hoisted it right side up."
Ruth Helen and Dorothy Gay were close friends in high school, and graduated together in the class of 1944. Dorothy then became an operator for the telephone company, a job which turned out to be a lifetime career. After JD returned from the Pacific theater of WWII, he made a trip back to Oklahoma, asked Dorothy's Dad if he could marry her, and promptly told her they were getting married. Within a week they were married and were returning to California. They had 30 days together before he shipped out again. Dorothy returned to Oklahoma by train where she continued working for the telephone company. When the war concluded, JD obtained his diploma by passing examinations at Poly High School in Long Beach. JD then went to watch making school. They moved to Burbank where JD worked for Sears and Roebuck. With a characteristic display of independence, JD then invested his savings to establish a jewelry and watch repair business. Their son Steve was born in Burbank, and their daughter Jan in Lynwood 11 months later.
In 1952, JD, Dorothy, Steve, and Jan had all returned to live in Oklahoma. They settled first in Chickasaw, and then moved to Shawnee. Eventually they settled in the Oklahoma City area. After Steve and Jan married and moved away to Maine and Colorado respectively, JD and Dorothy travelled around the country to visit them and their families. Everyone looked forward to their visits, and have fond memories of Grandpa and Grandma being there.
JD continued working for Sears as their Jewelry Department Manager. They trained him in hearing aids, and he managed that department also. Later he went to work for Totco Oil repairing their timers for the oil rigs. During his Sears years, he bacame an avid golfer, tennis player, bowler, and chess player. When the grandkids were old enough, he taught them all to play chess. After JD retired, computers were coming in. JD decided he needed to know something about those. He signed up for every class that the Vo Techs in the area had. He even learned to build computers. Everyone's first computer was built by Grandpa.
When the Henryetta alumni began having monthly meetings, JD began sending out a newsletter. Every month he would gather information via email and phone, enter it on the computer, and eventually was mailing out over 600 each month until his heart condition made him give it up. He continued to email his family and friends daily and one of his delights was the monthly luncheons he shared with Dorothy and their friends from Henryetta. The Henryetta School District honored him and several others who because of joining the war effort had not marched in their graduation exercises. They invited them to march with the graduating class in caps and gowns, and presented them with official Henryetta High School diplomas. He spent a lot of time working on the family history and left a great legacy not only for his children and grandchildren, but for nieces, nephews, and extended family that he thought of and prayed for continually.
In 2002, his son Steve moved back to Oklahoma City because of health issues. In order to assist Steve and spend time with him, Grandpa and Grandma began picking Steve up and going to eat pizza on Fridays. That tradition grew and encompassed every family member locally. When the grandkids and great-grandkids would come to town, one of the things they looked forward to was Grandpa and Grandma's Friday noon lunch at one of the pizza restaurants. It was a wonderful way to keep in touch and spend time with family and even friends who dropped in to see the family.
JD was preceded in death by his parents, Steven A. and Berthan Langford; his brothers and sister Vestal, Lloyd, Woody, and Ruth Helen. He is survived by his wife, Dorothy of the home, his son and wife, Steve and Lynda Langford of Mustang, OK; his daughter and husband, Jan and Butch Chafey of Bethany, OK; 5 grandchildren in order of birth, Stephania Langford, Brian and Sarah Troxell, Brent and April Troxell, Chad and Kristen Langford, Ashley and Troy Sirman. He is also survived by 11 great-grandchildren, Jade, Abby, Mia, Tony, Jordyn, Jackson, Karsten, Emma, Benjamin, Lexie, and Hudson; and by nieces and nephews that he emailed and prayed for regularly. JD was dearly loved and will be greatly missed.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, March 16 at 2:00pm at the Mercer-Adams Funeral Service Chapel.
1926 – unknown