Mike and Patti Langley, and their daughter Beth, were my neighbors for 30 years. My daughter was often Beth's baby sitter. And before Mike, Patty and Beth, Mike's parents, Denver and Zola, had built a home at the north end of what had been a Shoenahl apple orchard. My long history with the Langleys explains what undoubtedly seems to some of you as the dismaying choice of me as Mike's eulogist, but I'm grateful and honored, because, like all of you, I was very fond of Mike. My family could not have asked, would not dare ask, for better neighbors; the Langleys were certainly better neighbors than my raucous crew deserved. Mike, of course, enjoyed the daily show our neighborhood then presented, with Billy Owens' family also our immediate neighbors, Billy being among the most entertaining guys in all of Mendocino County, and Lloyd Mason's family across the street and, for stability, Carolyn Eigenman to the north, anchoring us all to larger realities.
Mike born in Westwood, near Chester in Plumas County, on August 18th, 1950. He died of a heart attack in Chico on Monday, September 2nd. Mike is survived by his sister Shirley, his wife Patty, daughter Beth, and two grandchildren. His brother Randy and sister Freda, in the awful contemporary obituary term, “pre-deceased” their young brother.
His parents were Denver Wayne Langley and Zola Marie Langley who'd left their homes in Stillwater, Oklahoma for California in the Dust Bowl years of the Great Depression. Mike's parents, although they were both from Stillwater, had not known each other in the old country. They met and married in California. Mike's paternal grandfather was a well known fiddler who occasionally played with the legendary Bob Wills. Mike, and his daughter, Beth, are enrolled members of the Cherokee tribe, having descended from enrolled members on the paternal side of his family. Odd, isn't it, to actually know real Cherokees, what with thousands of New Agers claiming membership, swelling the ranks to more Cherokees than were driven west on the Trail of Tears.
Mike lived his first 11 years in the Chester area until a lingering strike closed down the mill where Mike's dad, a union carpenter, worked. Denver moved the family to Sacramento where he'd found work and Zola went to work at Travis Air Force Base. Mike graduated from high school in Sacramento. From high school, Mike went on to art school but a falling out with a teacher, and with the Vietnam War coming on, and friends beginning to disappear into the draft, draft-eligible Mike, briefly joined the exodus to Canada.
Then it was back to the U.S. and a couple of years on the road by thumb and midnight freight trains until, broke in Pennsylvania, Mike hitchhiked to his sister's home in Atlanta where he soon met Patty and, the day after her 20th birthday and on his 23rd birthday, they married. The young couple then moved to Folsom where Mike, always a highly skilled woodworker, started a furniture store, and in a couple of years, to Boonville and Anderson Valley Way to help his parents build their retirement home and where Mike and Patty would build their home, too. Just days after Beth was born at home on Anderson Valley Way, Mike, Patty and Beth returned briefly to Georgia. But once you've lived in Boonville, well... Well, Mike, Patty and Beth were soon established on the Day Ranch, Philo, where Mike served as manager and, to my amazed eyes, I was soon watching their new home boldly rise, permit-free, right behind my frequently red-tagged half-acre.
Mike was famously amiable, the best company any of us could ask for, and he was a wonderful storyteller. We all got to enjoy him the Saturdays that Mike and Patti hosted the Trading Time program on KZYX. They brought the same rare wit and warm charm to the show that attracted us to them, that some of us were fortunate enough over the years to enjoy on a daily basis.
I only saw Mike angry once in all the years I knew him, and that was when, one day, he came storming up my driveway to tell me, “Some little bastard just now threw a rock threw a rock through the window of my truck.” The neighborhood was teeming with feral little bastards at the time — one of them had that same day lobbed a string of firecrackers over the fence from the Owens' place at us. But the day the feral ones had attacked Mike, he'd clouded up, stormed, and then sat down for the usual laughing meet and confer he was known for.
Mike was also a project guy. He always had something interesting going on next door, and his lumber planer became a kind of area meeting place, as did his water tower wine shop. I have a vivid memory of Michele Salgues, then the boss at Roederer, Tony Summit, me and Mike, sampling a white wine Mike had made. That unlikely gathering of wine connoisseurs concluded with Michele, a man not given to diplomatic praise, pronouncing Mike's wine “excellent."
The stroke Mike suffered affected the entire community. Suddenly, Mike was not the Mike we'd all known and loved. To all of us who'd known him before that terrible affliction struck him down, Mike died then, but we know he found comfort in new friends he made in Chico, and we were happy for him for finding new solace. Mike was a wonderful man who gave us all great joy. We will all always miss him.