Jackie Douglas Langham was born to Amsie Calvin “Ace” Langham and Florence Leota (Cundiff) Langham on August 5, 1944, in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. On February 6, 2015, at 8:28 P.M., he died at his home in Bakersfield, California, surrounded by family.
Jack was an adventurer who lived life to the fullest and cherished “making memories” with the many special people in his life. He was raised in a small log cabin in Monte Ne, Arkansas. He fondly recalled childhood memories of playing outdoors, swimming in the creek and, his favorite hobby, shooting. As a teenager, he moved to Rogers,
Arkansas, where he honed his skills as a “fast-draw” shooter. He also earned quite a reputation, with friends and law enforcement, of driving his friends’ cars with impressive speed and skill. The hospital in which Jack was born had been converted into a jail. He spent one night there, before the police determined he really hadn’t robbed that liquor store! Despite it being a case of mistaken identity, Florence became concerned about her boy’s future.
So, in 1961, just three days after his 17th birthday, Jack enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served four years aboard the USS Point Defiance (LSD-31). Jack felt he became a man during his Navy years, with many mentors guiding him. He served during the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. “The PD” and her crew kept busy transporting Marines, rescuing downed planes, participating in Cold War nuclear testing, and searching for the lost nuclear submarine, the USS Thresher (SSN-593). They took part in the Marine Corp’s first amphibious assault into Vietnam in 1965. He also told of a mission into Thailand that was “so secret, we were never there.” Jack was honorably discharged as a Shipfitter Petty Officer 2nd Class and was awarded the National Defense Service Medal. More importantly to him, he left the Navy with many stories to add to his already ample collection.
On July 3, 1964, the seventh anniversary of his father’s death, Jack married Sharon Ruth (Allen) Langham. It was important to him to create a happy memory on this otherwise sad date. Then, on their second wedding anniversary, their first child, Shelly, was born. After the Navy, Jack supported his family by working as an Arrowhead Water salesman and an auto salesman.
Jack worked hard to fulfill his childhood dreams of becoming a firefighter and a pilot. He often pondered how a boy raised in a log cabin grew up to have two dream careers. He was assigned to the Kern County Fire Department Meadow’s Field station for many of his 25 years before retiring as an Engineer in 2002. He seamlessly joined the two careers, most notably, flying an OV-10 Bronco in over 50 fire suppression operations. One week after he last flew this impressive aircraft, he was devastated to learn of a crash that killed the pilot and destroyed the airplane.
Jack earned his Private Pilot certificate in 1969, followed by his Commercial certificate in 1970 and his Instructor certification in 1977. He chartered, instructed and met many celebrities while working at the Van Nuys Airport, frustrating his children by refusing to ask for autographs. From 1989-92, he lived his dream of owning his own airplane, an aerobatic two-seat Citabria. He enjoyed thrilling his passengers with his aerobatic stunts. He obtained his Commercial Airline Transport certificate in 1999. Also in 1999, he attained one of his proudest achievements, earning his Commercial Pilot Single Engine Sea rating in a Piper PA-18 “Super Cub” on straight floats in Moose Pass, Alaska.
In 2002, Jack’s flying career was stalled after he lost his medical certificate following a stroke. He fought hard to regain his certificate two years later. His flying career again took off in a big way as he went on to achieve his biggest dream as a pilot. In 2005, at the age of 61, he earned his Learjet type rating in the Bombardier LR-31A. At least once, he flew the Lear at 51,000 feet. Jack maintained an active flying career as a contract pilot until being diagnosed with cancer in February 2014. He logged a staggering 10,133 hours of flight time in his lifetime.
Jack was a loquacious man, renowned as a masterful storyteller with a terrific sense of humor. He was a logophile who reveled in springing unusual words on unsuspecting listeners. He took pleasure in thoughtful conversations with his daughters. He enjoyed shooting and hunting, especially with his sons and grandsons. He was a man of strong faith and principles who cared deeply about the legacy he would someday leave. He had much generosity of heart and was a selfless giver to both those he knew and strangers alike. He supported numerous charities that were close to his heart, most notably Latin America ChildCare (LACC), Socks for Heroes, and The Mission at Kern County.
Jack requested his obituary be “short and sweet.” While it may seem his wish was not fulfilled, it’s as short as it could possibly be, considering how much he managed to do and achieve in the “three score and ten” the Lord gave him on this Earth.
Jack was preceded in death by his parents Amsie and Florence Langham, in-laws Weston Percy Allen, Ruth (Gualco) Allen Conway and Eugene Conway, and sister Glenda Langham. He is survived by his wife Sharon Ruth (Allen) Langham, sister Marie “Scooter” Langham, children Shelly (Gregg) Dunn, John (Lee) Langham, Susanne Langham, Jeremy (Mary) Langham, grandchildren Brandon, Krysta, Mitchell, Nicholas, Kyle, Kameron, Caylee, Nathaniel, Ashley, Jeremy and Jacob, and great-grandchildren Hunter, Nicholas and Jack.
An internment service will be held Friday, February 27, 2015 at 10:45 A.M., at the Bakersfield National Cemetery, 30338 E. Bear Mountain Blvd, Arvin CA, 93203. A memorial celebration will immediately follow at the Calvary Bible Church activity center, at 48 Manor Drive in Bakersfield. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Kern River Family Mortuary, 1900 N. Chester, Bakersfield, California, 93308.
Memorial donations may be made to The Mission at Kern County, P.O. Box 2222, Bakersfield CA, 93303.
The family is deeply thankful for the loving care Jack received during the past year from Dr. Vinh-Linh Nguyen, his staff at Bakersfield Hemotology-Oncology and Hoffmann Hospice.