Snapshot: Duane Langenwalter
Occupation: I'm a designer. In high school I designed scenery for different productions. I went to the University of Iowa for two years on a scholarship, then went to the North Carolina School of the Arts for scenic design. Now I'm one of the partners of Thin Air in Newtown with my wife, Maureen Trotto. When Maureen first began designing toys, 32 years ago, she pulled me in. Right after we got married we put Thin Air together.
Family: My school advisor actually introduced me to Maureen. She had been teaching at the school of the arts. I remember the first time I saw her, she was in the costume shop working. We've been married now for over 30 years. Originally I'm from Manson, Iowa, a town of 1,500 people. I'm the oldest in my family of four boys and a girl. I lost my brother Allen to a car accident in the 1980s. My brother Brian lives in Missouri now, and Scott and Nancy live in Manson. Back when two tornadoes came through our town, they hit the Town Hall and blew the roof off. My father, Elmon, purchased the building for almost nothing, and I designed the whole space of it. My mother, Norma, is a wonderful crafts-person. She quilts, along with doing everything else, and does quilt giveaways. Also, almost everyone in town has had her sweet rye bread, because she bakes 12 to 15 loaves at a time.
Pets: We have a standard poodle, Dante, and a party-colored Coton de Tulear dog named Arrow. They're really good together.
How long did you live in Newtown? Maureen and I lived on Main Street by the old firehouse for about five years. I was also a member of Trinity Church and in the choir there for 11 years. Now I sing in Wilton with the same choir director from Trinity.
What do you like to do in your free time? I do a lot of photography, and I usually turn my photography into digital art. I also write waka, a Japanese poetry form. It is basically a haiku.
Do you have a favorite author? I read histories, biographies, and very eclectic series. I like J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling.
What is your favorite travel destination? Japan. When I was a senior in high school we had a foreign exchange student from Japan, Masahiro Kuroda, who lived with us. He went to college in Ohio and would come back on vacations when the time was too short to go home. When he got married, I went over to Japan and represented our family at his wedding.
What is a hobby of yours? I started to study Japanese sword forms kendo and iaido after my first trip to Japan. Kendo is fencing with a bamboo sword and iaido uses a real sword. I studied and taught them for 30 years. My teacher, Shozo Kato, now has the highest rank of anyone in kendo and iaido outside of Japan.
What is the best part about Newtown? In a way Newtown shined its brightest after Sandy Hook. I've always been so proud of the pastor we had at Trinity, Kathy Adams-Shepherd, because she was dedicated to everyone and did the best she could to help with the healing. I also love Newtown's Main Street and its history. I love architecture, and it's wonderful to feel the history around you.
What has been the greatest influence in your life? The town of Mason and my family. My father would encourage people around town to let him know if we ever did something. Then, when he needed to, he would use it as a lesson. They both influenced me in that I always knew there was nothing I couldn't do. Being in that small of a town you wore so many hats.
If you could spend the day with one person, who would you choose and why? The Dalai Lama. He is so together and so at peace. I admire him so much for what he has done for the world and the stances that he continues to take.
What is your favorite musical genre? I like everything from Beethoven to The Beatles to Nora Jones to classical and modern jazz. At the University of Iowa I was even in a swing choir called the Old Gold Singers.
What is your favorite food? Peking Duck.
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