Andrea Taylor Langworthy was a rebel — one with many causes.
As the Twin Cities’ first full-time car saleswoman, she saw herself as a torchbearer for all women, her family said.
Langworthy, who later became a weekly columnist for the Rosemount Town Pages, died on June 5 at age 67 due to complications from inclusion-body myositis, a terminal muscle disease.
Langworthy, born in Minneapolis in 1947, was never one to accept the status quo, particularly for women. She was kicked out of every boarding school she attended as a teenager before graduating from Villa Maria Academy in 1965, her daughter Sarah Ploeger said with a laugh, “She was a rebel, but not a naughty rebel.”
She married her first husband, Philip Huch, at 19 and had two children, Sarah and Matthew. Looking for work in 1976, Langworthy answered an advertisement in the paper for a car sales position at Harold Chevrolet in Bloomington.
“I don’t think she ever thought that it wouldn’t happen,” Ploeger said. “Someone else would have doubted that they would hire a woman, but she just assumed she would be hired.”
Her tenacity and boldness proved essential in the male-dominated car industry. She was sexually harassed and criticized as she fought to gain a foothold in her job, her granddaughter Mandi Stebbins said.
“No one really believed in her. Her clients didn’t take her seriously,” Stebbins said. “She had to work 10 times harder to get a sale, but once she did, her customers became much more loyal to her than anyone. They would keep coming back to her because they trusted her.”
The car dealership, recognizing the asset their trailblazing saleswoman was, leveraged the novelty of Langworthy by running a print ad bearing her smiling image, trumpeting “Equal Rights at Harold Chevrolet.” In the photo, Langworthy’s hands-on-hips stance challenges anyone who might question her competency or willpower.
At times, Langworthy seemed to be a living paradox: An intense woman who approached every undertaking with ferocity, but also a loyal and loving woman who lavished kindness on her family and her ever-widening circle of friends.
“She was an advocate for everyone she came in contact with,” Ploeger said. “If you ask any one of her friends, they would tell you that she was the one person they could always count on.”
Her holiday card list had more than 1,000 names on it, Stebbins said, and she would hand-write notes to all of them.
“She always put others first” and was constantly staying in touch her children and grandchildren, said son Matthew, who spoke with her on the phone daily.
Diagnosed with myositis at 55, she continued to work selling cars until the disease was too debilitating.
With ever-decreasing mobility, Langworthy turned her attention to another lifelong interest: writing. After taking creative writing classes at Normandale Community College, she entered a writing contest and was shocked when she was announced as the winner.
“She won $5,000 and was over the moon,” Ploeger said.
Her first column in the Rosemount Town Pages was published May 21, 2004, and it appeared every week after — even the week she died. With a small dose of snark, Langworthy wrote about everyday life, growing up, hard relationships, obscure thoughts, aging and disease. Her granddaughter cherishes a large manila envelope now full of napkins that Langworthy scribbled new column ideas on whenever inspiration struck.
As the sickness overtook her muscles, Langworthy did “hand exercises incessantly so she could keep up her writing,” Stebbins said. Through it all, she kept reading books and the newspaper every day, calling friends and family with tidbits of “did you know” information.
She and her husband, John Langworthy, whom she married in 1989, devoted time to a support group for people struggling with her same disease called KIT (Keep in Touch).
“She had this really high value in community,” Stebbins said. “She wanted to make an impact on the world.”
She is survived by husband John; children Sarah Ploeger and Matthew Huch; stepson Chad Langworthy; her first husband, Phil Huch; and six grandchildren. A private memorial is planned. Memorials should be sent to the Myositis Association.