On June 26, 2012, Donald Walter Langa, beloved husband, father, and grandfather, passed away at his home in Denton, Texas after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.
Prior to the onset of cancer, Don was never in a hospital; he was born in his rural home on a farm in Woodlawn, Illinois on January 24, 1943. He attended a one room schoolhouse located down a tiny dirt road before attending Woodlawn High School, where he graduated as the valedictorian at age 15. He worked in a furniture store where his retired naval aviator boss gave Don his first ride in a plane that had belonged to Charles Cessna. This experience, coupled with seeing an aircraft carrier on a nearby Navy billboard, inspired him to pursue a career in aviation. While attending Southern Illinois University, Don literally lived at the nearby Carbondale Airport, where he resided in a trailer. He worked at the airport, flying whenever he could, and he was a charter member and officer of the National Intercollegiate Flying Association. Upon graduation from SIU, Don joined the Navy, earning honors in training and becoming a fighter pilot, who served multiple tours in Vietnam aboard both the USS Constellation and the USS Coral Sea in VF161. On his tours, Don flew the F4 Phantom and completed 141 carrier based missions over North Vietnam; his commendations included: ten Air Medals, Navy Commendation Medals, Gold Star, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Korea), Navy Unit Commendation Medal, the Vietnamese Service Medal with two bronze stars and the Vietnamese Campaign medal with device (60-1). Don earned the rank of Lieutenant Commander before his voluntary honorable discharge. Don began his career with American Airlines in 1969, retiring in 2002 as an International Captain on the Boeing 777. Don never missed a day of work, a tribute to good health and a strong moral ethic of showing up for duty.
Don met his wife Pat while on duty in San Diego, and they were married for 43 years. Sons, Matt and Brian, were blessed to have the perfect father, guiding them and coaching them through baseball, basketball, and most often, soccer. Fond memories were created from trips involving camping, boating, water and snow skiing and vacations to the family farm in Illinois, as well as across the United States and overseas. Annual destinations also included visiting family in Southern California and New Jersey and touring National Parks throughout the U.S.
Don was also an
active volunteer at St. Mark Catholic Church and with the Vietnam Veterans of
America. In recognition of his military and community service, LCDR Langa
was honored with a Congressional Veteran’s Commendation by Congressman Burgess
As Don summarized in a recent letter to Pat, “It's been a long and enjoyable journey from Mission Beach in San Diego to Denton, Texas, from "Cattle Call" to real cattle. Mission Beach was one of the most enjoyable times of my life. We got to fly high performance Navy airplanes in a much safer environment, enjoy the fun time on the beach, eat 25 cent dinners and breakfasts, and best of all, I got to meet you, and we began our life together. Although, I would like to have had a few more years on earth, I had a good life. I was born in the greatest country in the world; the Navy gave me the opportunity to fly one of the "hottest" aircraft in the world at the time - the F-4, and American Airlines gave me the opportunity to fly one of the newest and more sophisticated aircraft that they had - the 777. Much more than I expected while picking corn and pitching hay when I grew up on the farm in Illinois. “We had the good fortune of having two magnificent sons, two great daughters in law, and three beautiful granddaughters. They have all made us proud in their careers and achievements through the years. What more could you ask for?"
Don was a kind, honorable and moral man, who strongly believed in God and trusted in God’s plan. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends. Don is survived by his wife, Patricia of Denton, TX; sons, Matthew (Aliza) of Seattle, WA and Brian (Raquel) of Redondo Beach, CA and three precious granddaughters, Gracelen, Isabella, and Madeline. His brother, Irvin (Barbara) of Florissant, MO, also survives.
The family will receive friends at the Mulkey-Mason Funeral Home, 705 N. Locust Street, Denton, TX on Sunday, July 8 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m, closing with a recitation of the Rosary. Services will be held at St. Mark Catholic Church, 2800 Pennsylvania Drive, Denton, TX, on Monday, July 9 at 10:00 am, followed by a graveside service at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery at 2000 Mountain Creek Parkway Dallas, TX.
The family wishes to thank MD Anderson, Texas Oncology, Texas Presbyterian Hospital and Faith Hospice. Donations may be made in Donald’s honor to the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 920, P.O. Box 241, Denton, TX, 76202.