One morning with Russ Langstaff

MAGNOLIA CAN BE FOUND IN HIM
Just as he said it would be, his weathered Plymouth Voyager was parked at the end of the lot. And by crossing the bridge that spanned the glossy pond, he himself could be found sitting at the edge of the dock on his navy blue walker/chair listening to the waves. And so he was.
Russ Langstaff may well be the longest living resident of Magnolia, having grown up there, married and raised a family there, worked on tugboats beyond the bluff, retired and last year, buried his wife of 55 years, Marion.
On this day he sat as he does every week at the north edge of Golden Gardens in Ballard, looking at the waves of the Sound, the gulls, the beachcombers and the green buoy that bobbed some 100 yards out.
"That's where those two boys swam out to at night. The current got one," he said of a recent accidental drowning. Langstaff knows the water pretty well, having served on it for decades as an engineer for Puget Sound Tug & Barge. He later worked at the Seattle's Motor Transportation Division for 30 years until he retired in 1983.
These days, since the passing of his wife two Aprils ago, Langstaff has a pretty regular regimen. One of them being a regular trip to the Westernco doughnut shop on 15th Avenue West in Ballard. He doesn't want to fuss with parking and the higher prices associated with the gourmet coffee purveyors in Magnolia Village, an area is fond of but just doesn't go anymore. So he gets some drip coffee and a doughnut in Ballard.
He's 85 years old now so his daughter, Beverly, calls him every morning to make sure he's all right.
It's a good idea if you've seen his house. It's a lovely 1928 brick home with five bedrooms on a corner lot at the 2700 block of Dravus Street. It's big and there are lots of little steps inside and out. The steps to the basement are somewhat steep, though over the years, for the sake of his wife, he installed handrails there and elsewhere.
The tub and toilet in the bathroom are set up to help someone who is no longer ambulatory, as was his wife. She had a stroke in 2000 that paralyzed her left side. Russ took care of her for four years, helping her dress, eat, bathe and use the toilet.
A loyal and devoted husband to say the least. When Marion broker her hip, caring for her became too difficult for Russ.
His back was worn out from carrying her. Though he's tall (6'5"), and able (he used to bicycle all over Europe as a part of the Pacific Northwest Cycling Association and throughout the states. He even climbed Mount Rainier in 1949 as his dad did before him on Aug. 25, 1903.
"Not many white people had climbed Mount Rainier back then," he said of his dad's summitting Tahoma.), it just became too tough. And so he moved her to a Queen Anne nursing home. She died of pneumonia two years later.
"I know she would have died sooner if I hadn't been taking care of her like I did," he said. "I was glad to help her."
So now, most of the time Russ takes his meals alone, occasionally watching the TV. It's not particularly exciting, but once in a while there are surprises. One evening, as he was just about to sit down for dinner and a little TV, the doorbell rang.
He wasn't expecting anybody, and so was happily surprised to see his neighbor, a young woman of East Indian descent standing there with oven mitts on each hand holding a hot apple pie.
"She made it with her own apples," he said of the pie that she insisted he take and have for dessert that evening. "I said, 'gee whiz, I feel embarrassed just taking it,' but I said 'I know what I could do with it,'" he added with a smile spreading across his still charming face. "It lasted just three days."
Little things like that, and other examples of time-tested neighborliness is why Langstaff, after all these years, stays in Magnolia. It's where his "castle" is and where he and Marion raised their children.
He recalls, first hand, all the history, too, from the old grocery stores such as Valentine's at 36th and Government Way, Jacobson Brothers Grocery in Magnolia Village, now occupied by the Village Pub at 32nd Avenue West and West McGraw Street, the construction of the Magnolia Bridge and the Y-shaped wooden bridge at West Dravus Street that years ago burned down.
Even at 85, he has boyish looks and bright blue eyes that light up when he smiles, thinking about his beloved neighborhood, the seascapes that have gone unchanged for decades, and the sound of the waves sweeping onto the shore.[[In-content Ad]]