Neil Baldwin Lang, 81
Neil Baldwin Lang of Block Island, Rhode Island, died at his home on June 9, 2020 at the age of 81. Neil was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island to Helen Baldwin and Charles Harrison Henry Lang.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Marja Nittel Lang; daughter Kari Nel and her husband John Morra of Providence, and a son, Kyle, and his partner Judy Fucci of Block Island.
Neil grew up in Seekonk, Mass., and graduated from East Providence High School.
He received a degree in Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). He was President of Phalanx, RPI’s service and leadership honor society: editor of The Transit student yearbook; and, President of Theta Chi Fraternity. He did graduate study in city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Inspired by President Kennedy, Neil was one of the first Peace Corps volunteers in 1962 and served in Le Kef, Tunisia. Upon his return, he worked at the Peace Corps’ main office in Washington, DC, where he met his wife, Marja Nittel. His Peace Corps service was one of the most meaningful experiences of his life.
He worked as an architect in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where Kari was born. The family moved to Maryland where he worked for The Rouse Company and was instrumental in the creation of Columbia, one of the country’s first planned communities, and where Kyle was born. He left The Rouse Company to become a principal of Land Design Research before ultimately going into business on his own. Neil was a member of the American Institute of Architects. His greatest strength was the personal connection he developed with his clients.
While in Maryland, Neil and Marja opened their hearts and home to families who needed help and housing. People gravitated to and confided in him because he was a great listener.
Neil inherited a strong connection to Block Island from three generations of the Lang family before him. From his first job as a bellhop at The Spring House Hotel to his marriage at Harbor Church, the island informed his life and inspired his art. Neil was an accomplished artist working in pen and ink, oils, pastels and watercolors. His early work was reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth, but following a heart transplant in 2003, his art became bolder and more abstract, heavily influenced by Wolf Kahn. He exhibited at galleries in Maryland and at the Jessie Edwards and Spring Street Galleries on Block Island.
Neil served as chair of the Historic District Commission of Ellicott City, Maryland, and on the Planning Board on Block Island. He illustrated Building on Block Island, a guide to designing in context with the built and natural environment. He also did design work and renovations for homes here on the island. For Neil, the power of place was essential and his place was this island and his home at Dorry’s Cove.
Neil became the patriarch of his extended family, including his survivors; a sister, Leslie Steinberg and her late husband Richard; and brothers, Fraser and his wife Betty of Providence; Keith and his wife Kathy of Block Island; and, Duncan and his wife Donna of Spotsylvania, Virginia. He leaves nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews in the Lang and Nittel families for whom he was a fatherly figure in their lives.
Neil was a warm and gracious presence in the community, always with a kindly greeting for all he met. He lived a life of integrity, motivated by service, steeped in his Scottish heritage, and inspirational in his sense of art and design. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.
Memorial gifts in Neil’s memory may be sent to The Spring Street Gallery, Box 1903, Block island, R.I. 02807 or The Block Island Conservancy, Box 84, Block Island, R.I. 02807.
A memorial service will be held at a later date to be announced.