Monday, August 13, 2018

James Langlas (May 16, 1951 - August 13, 2018)

August 13, 2018
Journal entry by Michelle Langlas:

Dear friends and family,

It is with deep sadness that we are informing you all that James Reimers Langlas has passed from this earth. It was 6:18 this morning when his heart stopped beating. It was peaceful. It was with his beloved son, daughter, and wife. He is in heaven, certainly a more beautiful place than this world. He will be guiding all of us still, just as he has done his entire life, only spiritually in a much broader sense. Goodnight sweet prince.

“Jim Langlas was an educator, Taekwondo master, and writer. Born in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1951, he began studying Taekwondo in his middle teens under the guidance of Jin Wook Choi. In 1973, Jim came under the guidance of Master Cha Kyo Han, who remained his teacher until Master Han's death in 1996. In 1974, Jim was a member of the U.S. Taekwondo Team and won a gold medal at the International Taekwondo Federation World Championships in Montreal. In 1980, he opened his own Taekwondo dojang. 

“Jim received his B.A. in English and physical education from the University of St. Thomas, his Master of Arts in Teaching from Northwestern University, and his Ph.D. in English from Northern Illinois University. He taught English, instructed Taekwondo, and coached in Wheaton-Warrenville Community Unit School District in Illinois for 33 years, where he also served as English Department Chair. In 1996, he founded Pathways for Achievement, an organization aimed at helping teens succeed in school and life. In 2003, he founded and chaired Community Partners in Poetry to foster an interest in poetry among all ages. In 2005, he received the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award from the State of Illinois. He served as co-president of the Universal Taekwondo Federation and taught at Florida SouthWestern State College. [Jim was a poet and the author of Heart of a Warrior7 Ancient Secrets to a Great Life].”

Waiting to Adopt a Child by James Langlas

You begin to think there is nothing left
for you.  The air neither comes nor goes
in the room upstairs, where the dust forms
tiny balls along the floorboards,
the fresh colors on the walls turn pale,
the new furniture begins to creak in the night.
Your wife knows beforehand what simple phrases
you will utter, how you will move through
the carpeted rooms of the house, looking
at your image reflected in the windows,
studying the sharp line of your nose,
talking aloud to yourself about heritage.

You have seen your neighbor’s trees bear fruit
even in the wrong seasons, and the soft rain
of evening dampens the earth wherever he walks:
to the garden, to the mailbox, toward the ball
and bat lying next to each other on the lawn.
Each time you turn on the post light, even the moths
fail to come.  The music you play in your car
floats out the windows before you hear it.

Memories do not lie.  Every image you own of childhood
becomes clearer at night.  When you reach over in bed
to comfort your wife, you see the descending hand
of your father, feel the way he stroked your hair
in the moments before you slept.  You hear your own
breathing against the pillow, the coming and going
of life, and try once more to repeat someone else’s
truth: Your loss may soon be your gain.

Another Birthday by James Langlas

Suddenly you’re holding such a thin rope.
Here you are, things going right,
the kids are safe, and some lousy flashback

or one look in a shadowy mirror,
and you wonder if there’s time
for something else, a chance

to find out if your shoes
really fit or if your car
will ever start again.

Maybe tomorrow you will find yourself
sitting in a corner, your knees
drawn up to your chin,

your elbows shaking stiffly, like leaves,
and all the lights will go out.
Or you will realize that flames

could end it all, and there will be
no way out the back door.
Who can say?

We’re getting there, both of us,
all of us, aren’t we, taking
those long walks now

but feeling as though we’ve
never left the yard, the muddy boots
by the door reminding us of where we’ve been?

And all of the forgetting, the disappearing
words of the sick people
in our dreams,

those who told us it would be like this,
the long finger of some distant uncle
pointing down the road.

For more poetry by James Langlas, click here: 


  1. Thank you for teaching all of us about the true meaning of love, community service, integrity, perseverance, courtesy, self-control and indomitable spirit, my dear friend and colleague.

  2. Your friend sounds like a beautiful person, just like his poetry.
    May his memory be a blessing.

  3. From Brooks Ebetsch on FB:

    “A star has gone dark from the sky.

    “This morning my high school English teacher, Dr. Jim Langlas passed way suddenly. Though I hadn't spoken to him in likely 20 years, I have thought of him, his teachings and the questions he asked of us many, many times over.

    “I have well-loved copies of all the books we read in Junior Seminar - Siddhartha, Jonathon Livingston Seagull, Ishmael, Einstein's Dreams, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was a deep dive into thinking about life, about connection and introspection. I have only the fondest of memories of his class and the discussions we had - particularly final projects with Robert Carey, Sarah Tao and Brennan Davis.

    “He sparked a love for literature, poetry, martial arts, and learning as a life practice in me. He had a PhD and chose to teach in a public high school. As his son recently said publicly, "know that my dad loved all of you. It was never about him. It was always about you." And that about sums him up.”

  4. From Rachel Marro on FB:
    “I truly don’t know who or where I’d be without Dr. Langlas’ mentorship and the Tae Kwon Do community he helped build. In the classroom and in the dojang, he helped people become the best versions of themselves and to see and appreciate the unique talents of others around them. The ripple effects of his teaching and kindness are immeasurable.”

  5. From Rick Uplegger on FB:
    “Jim Langlas was a huge part in developing who I am today. Through Taekwon-Do, I learned how to be a better person. How to take time and not be quick to anger. How to strive for goals that I would normally think impossible. How to live each day through the tenets of Taekwon-Do, even though I haven’t been in the Dojang for 20+ years. He inspired me to be a better person and even though I haven’t seen him in 20+ years, I still think of him and everything he taught me every single day. I am truly blessed to have known him and his family.”

  6. From Luis Alcantar on FB:
    “RIP Master Langlas. I remember as a kid you taking a very shy, picked on, non-confident kid and making him believe that he could do anything. You motivated me and encouraged me to stay after the Kids class for the Adults Taekwondo class. You helped give me clarity of what was right and what was wrong. You were a big reason why I wanted to help kids and worked with abused and neglected kids for over ten years. I am extremely saddened to hear of your passing and regret I never told you how you impacted me. What a beautiful soul.”

  7. From Sarah Gant on FB:
    “Although I am physically in Guatemala, my heart today is home with my family as we mourn the loss of my beloved Uncle Jim. It’s hard to believe that someone so vibrant and alive can be so suddenly gone, but those who were blessed with the gift of knowing him would agree with me wholeheartedly that he was the type of person who can never be forgotten. I have never known someone so present to others, and he had such a knack for making people feel special. I remember a family vacation when I was a kid and I shared a poem with him that I had written. Although he would probably have much rather been having happy hour with the adults, he took the time to analyze my poem with me line by line, making me feel like a real writer. When many questioned my entering the field of education, he was one of my biggest supporters, and the beautiful tributes I am reading from his former students show the type of teacher I will forever aspire to be. He always got a kick out of hearing my teaching stories, and I will so greatly miss the pearls of wisdom he offered me along the way. Whenever I write, whenever I teach, he will always be close to my heart. Thank you for being one of my life’s teachers, Uncle Jim. You will be so greatly missed.”

  8. From Vance Elliott on FB:
    “In memory and thought and the context he always provides: ‘Pay attention to what you personally believe is impossible and ask yourself is there even one way to achieve what you think is the unthinkable?’ This ancient philosophy is how he lived his life and he lived content with small means. Always doing everything with passion, he taught me to seek elegance rather than luxury be worthy not respectable, study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, do all bravely, await occasions but never hurry. He was very adept about the human condition on what’s important in life and loved by many people. He is what the world needs. I am still in a state of disbelief but I know he will still affect people in a positive way - He truly lived a life worth remembering.”

  9. From John Thomton on FB:
    "Hard for me to think of a kinder person. He was always rooting for everyone. He made me work my hardest - I never wanted to let him down."

  10. From Suzanne Satterlee on FB:
    "I am so saddened to hear this news. Dr. Langlas was the kind of teacher who gave so freely of himself that we all carried a little bit of him with us when we left WNHS... a bit of his enthusiasm for literature, a bit of his wisdom and perspective on life, a bit of his appreciation for beauty, and a bit of his belief in the potential of each one of us. He will be so missed, but what a legacy he leaves."

  11. From Gunnar Larson on FB:
    "I learned Taekwondo from Dr. Jim Langlas and it shaped me into the man I am today. I am forever grateful for his teachings and the impact he had on my life. This breaks my heart to hear, and I'm sure that many of us here remember his teachings with a heavy heart. We can remember him for his incredible heart and compassion for other human beings that I have yet to see matched after all these years."

  12. From Jack Langlas on FB:
    "Funeral for Jim Langlas will be held Tuesday august 21st at 10 here in Naples. Please visit and share the caring bridge page for further details. Dad, you taught me very well. You taught many others extremely well. It has been an honor reading many of the loving and heartfelt stories of my father. Please continue to share. I pray for strength constantly.

    "I remember the 'man to man' talks we had out on the front porch at 1310 in Wheaton. Cool spring or fall evenings; hot summer nights. Didn't matter. That was our time. A 30+ year tradition I have already started with my boy Aidan. It was eventually 'man to man' talks as I aged. We talked of simple things. Recalling the days activities. Where to spot the owl in the tree. Who you wanted to be... and why. How much we loved spending time together. Trips we wanted to take. Many subjects were discussed... until the mosquitoes got too bad. You were my best friend dad. The thing is, you showed that genuine interest in everyone. Love over and above and forever. May God let me borrow you from time to time. There is so much unfinished business, dad."

  13. Heather Adams on Caring Bridge:
    “I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”

    “Dr. Langlas was one of my favorite teachers I have ever known. This excerpt from Siddhartha, is one that I have carried with me for almost thirty years, having read this book in Dr. Langlas' class. He forced us to look beyond our religion, our schooling, our upbringing, and follow our passions and be true to ourselves, constantly striving for improvement and excellence. I'm not certain even he realized how far his touch reached. He will certainly be missed.”

  14. Rebecca Carnell on Caring Bridge:
    “Professor Langlas was among the first professors I ever had as a high school aged, dual-enrolled student at Edison State College (FSW) in 2010. It was my first time in a classroom after having been homeschooled my entire life and I was sick with anxiety. When he walked into the room, something miraculous happened -- I was instantly put at ease. In his classes, I learned how to write with my heart instead of my brain. Through his unfailingly kind, insightful, and careful guidance, I found my voice. On the final day of our last semester together, I broke down in tears as I thanked him for everything he had done for me. Even after I was no longer in his classes, he helped me with my admissions essays to new colleges. His passion for his subject and every person he came across was electric, inspiring, and utterly unforgettable. My heart is broken for every loved one he left behind, as well as anyone who didn't get to experience his light.”

  15. “Dr. James Langlas, 8th degree black belt, trained in Tae Kwon-Do since 1967. Dr. Langlas retired from the Wheaton School district in 2007 after 33 years of service... Among his accomplishments in the martial arts:

    -Awarded 8th Dan 2012
    -Awarded 7th Dan 2003
    -Appointed along with Mr. Paul Irvin as leaders of the UTF by Grandmaster Han Cha Kyo in 1996.
    -Promoted to 6th Dan and received Master status in a ceremony performed by Grandmaster Nam Tae Hi in 1996.
    -Owned and operated Langlas Tae Kwon-Do, the foundation of Pathways Tae Kwon-Do, for over 27 years.
    -Taught over 300 students to the rank of black belt.
    -Founder of Pathways for Achievement, a non-profit organization aimed at helping at-risk teenagers learn Tae Kwon-Do, get tutoring help and perform community service.
    -Member of the 1974 World Champion Tae Kwon-Do team at the ITF World Tournament in Montreal, Canada.
    -1st place Pattern competition and 3rd place Board Breaking at the ITF National Tournament, 1974.

    “Dr. Langlas, Ph.D. in English, taught in the Wheaton schools from 1974 through 2007.

    “In 2012, Dr. Langlas' book Heart of a Warrior: 7 Ancient Secrets to a Great Life was published and is available at book stores and online.”