Maynard Sandford and his wife Nancy became residents of The Arbors Independent Living in June 2020. He was having heart trouble and the dirt he loved to play “to keep me out of trouble” was too much to maintain.
(The “dirt” was a giant yard with fish ponds and landscaping.)
“I’ve improved so much since moving,” he says.
Nancy says they both are surprised at how well he started doing after the move. He went from barely being able to walk around the block to taking 2.5-mile walks regularly.
He now manages a smaller space, taking on the landscaping for The Arbors with flower beds and hanging baskets. He also maintains a vegetable garden and supplies residents with fresh food.
“I call it the country club,” he says of The Arbors. “I’m regaining my health and keeping my wife happy.”
NASA wind tunnel
Sandford was an aerospace engineer at NASA Langley in Hampton for 35 years. He and Nancy moved to the area in 1959.
“I was there from the beginning,” he says of his placement at the TDT wind tunnel. He tested models for aerodynamics.
“There was no service for NASA employees,” he says, “even though at that time you’d expect I had been drafted. I tried to enlist and was told I was flat-footed. I couldn’t be a pilot.”
Since he was there from the transition from NACA to NASA at the Hampton campus, he did encounter the seven astronauts of the Mercury space program at the gym. While Sandford played handball, the astronauts typically gathered for racquetball.
“I talked to them a lot,” he says.
“My job was ‘flutter,’” he says, spreading his arms out and flapping them to represent airplane wings. He gave a lot of talks to Air Force and other military officials about the results of the wind tunnel tests. They were making sure jets were safe for flight as well.
It would sometimes take months to build, test and analyze data per wind tunnel model, which often ran to be $2 million to $3 million.
He played a documentary at The Arbors on Veterans Day from his time at Langley, specifically what happened at the wind tunnel. He and the TDT team tested for all types of aircraft, including commercial, spacecraft and parachutes of the space flight modules.
He retired in 1993. But his legacy at the campus continued with his son, Stephen Sandford, who spent 28 years with NASA, including as Director for Space Technology and Exploration at Langley and senior assignments at Johnson Space Center in Houston. He later published “Gravity Well” and founded a business, Psionic.
“He was a real boss,” Sandford says.
His voice bursts with pride when talking about all of he and Nancy’s three sons and six grandchildren.
They have a son who lives in Maryland and their youngest son is a Navy captain and chaplain who earned a bronze star as a Marine Corps volunteer. He has been to Iraq and Afghanistan, was at the Pentagon and is now in Okinawa, Japan.
One of his grandchildren has published a young adult book, which sits on the shelf of their living room bookcase next to “Gravity Well.”
Nancy and Maynard met in high school. He attended Randolph-Macon to play football.
“I have quite a legacy there,” he says of Randolph-Macon. Two sons, their wives and one of his grandchildren all have attended (or are currently attending) the school.
Sandford says he enjoys playing tennis and regular walks. He used to hike with a friend in the Dismal Swamp regularly for 16 to 20 miles on Thursdays (until 2017). He and friends also would hike portions of the Appalachian Trail, mostly in Virginia, for about 30 years.
Now he enjoys walks around Port Warwick and nearby areas.
Be our neighbor
Does a maintenance-free lifestyle with chef-prepared meals sound enticing? We are offering a holiday move-in special and tours during our Holiday Cheer events 2 p.m. Wednesday in December. Call 757-933-2621 to reserve your space or visit us at vahs.com/thearbors to learn about the community and schedule a tour.