A man of spiritual words & local actions


After many years of community service, Crist and Noma Langelett of North St. Paul describe themselves as “finally retiring” from some of their many volunteer duties.

Crist and Norma Langelett serve together as chaplains of the North St. Paul police and fire departments.

Crist Langelett cutting back after many years of extraordinary volunteerism

Crist Langelett is a community icon in North St. Paul, though his influence has touched lives all over the east metro. 

The former high school science teacher and hockey coach has spent his retirement years doing volunteer work — everything from founding and working countless hours at the North St. Paul Area Food Shelf, to pitching in on Lions Club projects, to helping youth hockey programs, to participating in prison ministry programs, to serving as the police and fire department chaplain, and on and on the list goes.

He has taken to heart the virtues of the Golden Rule, and in an understated way spread the Christian word whenever he can, and has been known to carry small New Testament Bibles to gift to anyone who is interested. 

For many years, Langelett provided words of spiritual wisdom through his roles as chaplain for North St. Paul and its police and fire departments. He also served as chaplain and Bible study leader at the Washington County jail in Stillwater, the Goodhue County Adult Detention center in Red Wing and the Hennepin County Corrections facility in Plymouth. 

Another way he shared his wisdom was through a faith column published in Lillie Suburban Newspapers publications for the past 40 years. Now, the final “Chaplain’s Corner” has been inked to the page. 

Langelett says he has reached a time when life demands slowing down and taking a step back from some of his many projects. Norma, his wife, explains that he is getting older and slowing down quite a bit due to health issues.

He has already stepped down from his work with jail inmates and will no longer be writing the monthly newspaper column, though he continues to open most North St. Paul City Council meetings with an invocation and plans to continue his volunteer work with the city for the time being. 

Man of words

The first column Langelett wrote for Lillie Suburban Newspapers was published in 1976, though he wasn’t a chaplain yet and the column wouldn’t be called “Chaplain’s Corner” until later.

According to Langelett, the column was published monthly to begin with, but when Langelett retired from his teaching position at North High School he had the time to write a column every week.

“[The column] was just an opportunity to hopefully influence people to read the Bible and maybe give their hearts to the Lord,” Langelett says.

He explains that life itself often inspired his columns, and he often got ideas for topics from the conversations he would have with community members. 

Norma notes her amazement at how fast he could write those columns.

“I just sit down and write, and it just flows in,” Langelett says with a grin.

Norma adds that occasionally readers did not like his column simply because of its religious nature, but aside from that she has never heard of a single negative response from a reader. 

In his autobiography titled “My Journey,” Langelett discussed his experiences writing the column. He wrote, “The feedback from readers is a prime motivator for me to keep on keeping on after all these years.”

In a recent interview, Norma explained that Langelett had initially planned to retire from column writing at the end of 2015, but instead continued “Chaplain’s Corner” into 2016 because readers were so fond of it and disappointed to see it go.

 

Man of action

Langelett earned several degrees and certificates from Minnesota colleges, served in the U.S. Army from 1950 to 1952 and remained involved with the Gideons International from 1970 to 2005, but he is best known for his local contributions. 

Between 1959 and 1990, Langelett taught biology at North High in North St. Paul.

Yearbook pages filled with the best wishes of his students offer proof that he was a well-liked teacher, and Langelett said he still runs into former students who remember him, especially when he socializes at the Friday night History Cruze car show in North St. Paul over the summer months.

“Teaching was obviously my bag because everything went much better than I could ever have hoped,” he wrote in “My Journey.” He added that teaching and coaching were the best parts of his working career. 

He initially coached track and cross country, but by the late 1960s he began maintaining the ice rink and coaching and refereeing youth hockey instead.

One of his favorite anecdotes is that he helped North St. Paul Mayor Mike Kuehn lace up his skates, when Kuehn was just a boy. 

In 1969, just after New Year’s Day, Langelett was on a committee of four people who began planning a new indoor skating facility in North St. Paul. Polar Arena opened around Christmas in 1969. Langelett and many other volunteers built much of it by hand. 

He was asked to manage the facility until it was up and running — a job that lasted the next 24 years.

In 1987 he stopped coaching high school hockey, and in 1993 the arena management was turned over to his successor. Today, Polar Arena is owned and operated by the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District.

In 1980, Langelett and his late wife Joanne helped found the food shelf, which still exists today in North St. Paul. She passed away in 1997.

Langelett continued as president of the non-profit North St. Paul Area Food Shelf until 1998. Today the facility serves residents of North St. Paul and Oakdale and distributes around 25,800 pounds of food each month.

In 1982, Langelett helped start the first North St. Paul Prayer Breakfast with Ray Enright, former co-owner of Lillie Suburban Newspapers, Bill Sandberg, former North St. Paul mayor, and Dr. Harold Broman.

In 2001 and 2002 there were some tragic, accidental deaths in the community, and Langelett was asked to become chaplain of North St. Paul and its police and fire departments. In addition to Langelett’s invocations before meetings, he and Norma would often comfort the survivors and families involved in local tragedies. 

Over the years, Langelett has been recognized numerous times for his leadership, service, teaching and coaching. In 1973 he was awarded “Outstanding Citizen of the Year” by the North St. Paul Area Business Association. In 1998, the Knights of Columbus awarded him “Man of the Year,” and twice mayors of North St. Paul proclaimed a day in his honor. 

This next summer, Langelett will celebrate his 86th birthday. So far in his life, he has shared his wisdom through his writing, emphasized the Christian precept of caring for others, comforted community members in times of tragedy, and spurred the foundation of community cornerstones. 

North St. Paul has been forever changed because of him and individuals all over the east metro will always remember Langelett for his actions, column, kindness and faith.

 

Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com.

 

 

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