Raconteur, gentleman, nature lover, brother, husband, father, grandfather. Born May 9, 1923, in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales; died May 2, 2013, in Kingston of complications from a fall, aged 89.
John Gerald Patrick Langton delighted friends and family with tales from his childhood and poems recited from memory. A man with a sharp mind and many interests, he often surprised acquaintances with a phrase in Gaelic, Welsh, French, German or Urdu.
His ear for languages reflected the many places life brought him. When John was 7, his mother died in childbirth. John and his four sisters were sent to Newry, Northern Ireland, to be raised by members of their extended family. With war looming, John enlisted in the British Army at the age of 18. During the bombings, he was assigned the duty of watching for (and dousing as needed) incendiary bombs on the rooftop of the London hospital where he was employed.
Leaving London behind, he pursued his military interests with the Indian Army in Borneo, where he was injured in 1946. Sent home to Ireland to recuperate, he received honourable discharge as a captain.
In 1952, John immigrated to Canada. In Toronto he met and married his wife, Josephine (Jo), with whom he had three children: Moira, Sean and Christina. John and Jo shared an adventurous spirit, which served them well in their many moves with the Canadian Army in Ontario, Manitoba and a six-year posting to Germany.
After retiring from the army in 1973, John enjoyed a second career with the Emergency Measures Organization in Fredericton, getting his feet wet by managing the worst flood ever recorded on the Saint John River. He and Jo relocated to Kingston in 1985, where they settled into retirement and built a cadre of new friends.
A nature enthusiast, John devoted many hours to gardening and birdwatching. He could regularly be found digging up potatoes, which he ate almost every night at dinner. Happy hour among friends meant raising a glass of Guinness or “Irish.” While doing household chores he could be heard lending his tenor voice to music by Gilbert and Sullivan.
John was a proud Canadian, supporting several charitable causes with many years of dedication. A distinguished member of the War Amps of Canada, John served in various capacities including national director for Eastern Canada. He was a Knight Commander of the Order of St. John, member of the Burma Star Association, member of the Order of St. Lazarus and recipient of two Queen’s Jubilee Medals. He accompanied a Canadian delegation to Burma in 1997 for the burial an aircraft crew that went missing in 1945.
A keen interest in genealogy led John to petition for and be granted a family coat of arms. He was happy to know that it would stand as a legacy for his children and grandchildren. His apt choice for a family motto, Cuimhnich Ar Bhur Tus (remember your origins), reminds us of the importance of family and to cherish loved ones near and far. John celebrated life cheerfully up to his last days. A week after his death, a memorial service was held on what would have been his 90th birthday.
Moira, Sean and Christina Langton are John’s children.