Roger Langsdale, 57, sailor and retired worker for U.S. Department of Labor

March 22, 2003|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Roger Langsdale, a retired federal government worker who spent the last several months living aboard his 44-foot ketch Star Baby at Annapolis' City Dock, died Thursday on his boat of colon cancer. He was 57.

Mr. Langsdale, a Pittsburgh native, and his wife, Nancy, came to Annapolis for the U.S. Sailboat Show in October. Here, Mr. Langsdale learned that he had advanced cancer and became too sick to leave.

As word spread of his condition, local residents, city employees and fellow boaters began to visit and extend help to the couple.

Mr. Langsdale "was a fighter," said Linda Mowatt, the city's harbor administrator who befriended the couple. "He was right up front. He'd say, `I have cancer and I am going to die, but I am going to fight it.' And you wanted to be there with him, fighting with him."

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Mr. Langsdale was the second of three children. His father, Robert Langsdale, was a buyer for an industrial firm.

As a teen-ager in the 1960s, his "passion" was fixing up old cars, said brother David Langsdale, a resident of Pittsburgh.

After high school graduation in 1963, Mr. Langsdale joined the Navy Reserve. He served for two years, doing payroll work for the Navy in New York City.

After leaving the Navy, he returned to Pittsburgh to attend Robert Morris College. While in college, he worked full time at a gas station and married his first wife, Ruth Bakewell. The couple had their first child, Christine, in 1970.

Soon after, Mr. Langsdale graduated with a degree in accounting and went to work as an auditor for the U.S. Department of Labor, for which he would work throughout the country until his retirement three years ago.

He and his wife had a second child, Kevin, in 1974 and divorced shortly afterward. In the late 1970s, he married for a second time, but that marriage ended less than two years later. He married a third wife in 1980, and the couple moved to Washington. They divorced after five years.

Mr. Langsdale then moved to Chicago, where he enjoyed racing sailboats, a hobby he first pursued along the Middle River while living briefly in Baltimore, his brother said. He also led a troop of Sea Scouts, a program for at-risk youths in Chicago, Mrs. Langsdale said.

In 1992, he met his future wife, the former Nancy Covington, an accountant who lived on her sailboat. A year later, he moved in with her on the boat.

A couple of years later, Mr. Langsdale was offered a promotion as regional inspector general for audit for the Labor Department in Philadelphia.

"He came home to me and said, `Nancy, I got a big promotion ... and have to move to Philadelphia, and will you marry me?'" Mrs. Langsdale recalled. They married on New Year's Eve, 1995, and moved to Pennsylvania.

In June 2000, Mr. Langsdale's son, Kevin, died of an abdominal aneurysm.

Mr. Langsdale had retired in January of that year, and he and his wife set sail on their boat, cruising where their fancy took them. It was a prospect that "elated" her husband, Mrs. Langsdale said. Eventually, they made their way to Annapolis for the boat show in the fall.

Before he died, Mr. Langsdale asked his wife to live the dream that they had planned together, she said.

"My plans are to continue the dream, to stay on Star Baby," Mrs. Langsdale said yesterday. "Roger said that he was excited about me continuing the adventure."

A funeral Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Mary's Church on Duke of Gloucester Street in Annapolis.

In addition to his wife and brother, Mr. Langsdale is survived by his mother, Ruth Langsdale of Sun City Center, Fla.; his sister, Kay Tabbarah of Washington; his daughter, Christine Parish, of New Castle, Pa.; and two grandchildren.

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