Langdon gives back what was given to him

August 30, 2006|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Nelson Langdon

Age: 74.

Hometown: Myersville, Md.

Where would you see Langdon? On Fridays, Langdon can be seen behind the wheel of an American Red Cross passenger van. He drives local veterans to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., for medical appointments.

The passenger load varies - Langdon picks up riders at the Red Cross offices on Conrad Court and Public Square in downtown Hagerstown, and does home pickups by request for disabled veterans. Vets are asked to make reservations to ride the van, which is driven by volunteers on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Langdon arrives by 8 a.m., and drops his passengers off in Martinsburg by 10:30 a.m. He then returns to Hagerstown, where he works out at the Hagerstown Community College Wellness Center and runs errands before making the afternoon return trip.


The Myersville native graduated in 1954 from the University of Maryland in College Park with a degree in dairy technology. For the next two years, he served as a medic in the 9th Field Hospital, stationed in San Antonio, Texas.

After the service, he was promised a job in New York that never came through. He worked for two years at Fort Detrick, then took a job as an insurance adjuster with the Erie Insurance Group.

It was that twist of fate that led Langdon into a career that offered two important elements for him - independence and helping people.

"I always enjoyed doing something for others," said Langdon, who retired about eight years ago after 39 years with the company. "... You start by helping people by necessity as part of the job and realize how rewarding it was."

He was grateful that he worked for Erie because he said they gave him the option of doing what he thought was right. Langdon said he always looked forward to going to work, and never minded that he might get phone calls at all hours of the night and day.

"I figured I'd retire at 65 to give back what was given to me," Langdon said. "The world has been so good to me."

Since he began driving the van to the VA Medical Center after he retired, Langdon also has become involved with the Red Cross Disaster Relief team. He uses his positive attitude to work with people in crisis, helping to calm them down and reassuring them that everything will be OK.

He said it reminds him of his work in the insurance business, where he would get calls to check out fires and emergencies. Langdon also volunteers with the Wolfsville Fire Co., the Potomac District of Ruritan and the Washington County Commission on Aging.

Langdon had heart bypass surgery right after he retired. He said he was two pints short of 100 when he had to stop giving blood because of the medications he has had to take after his surgery.

Langdon and his wife, Lorraine, helped build the house they have lived in since 1965. They have four children, including twin sons, and two grandchildren.

Hobbies: Langdon used to restore antique gas engines, but lost the desire after a fire burned down the shed where the engines were stored. Instead, he takes care of his yard and tends a 20-foot-by-50-foot garden with potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beets and radishes - "the things we enjoy eating," he said.

He said he enjoys fishing and makes most of his own equipment. Langdon said he used to hunt, but stopped because he can't bring himself to kill animals anymore.

Langdon said he and his wife "have a ball" baby-sitting their grandchildren once a week.

They also enjoy traveling, and recently returned from their third trip to Alaska. Langdon said they have been to all 50 states but Montana, although there is some question as to whether they were in North Dakota while on a bus trip.

What does Langdon like best about Washington County? The Erie Insurance office Langdon worked out of was on Antietam Street in Hagerstown, so he spent a lot of time in Washington County, although he lived in Frederick County.

"There's no difference in the people. That's the only thing of concern," he said. He added that Frederick has grown to a point that traffic is a big problem, and now the Wolfsville area is becoming more populated.

Langdon said houses are being built where he and his wife used to go mushroom hunting. He worries that there's no way to get fire equipment to those houses in an emergency.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, call Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send an e-mail to

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