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Center Snapshot: Patty Pigford
Earl Williams, Jr. and Patty Pigford. Image above: Langley employees and brother and sister duo, Earl Williams Jr. and Patty Pigford, display photos from a book that was presented to their father, Earl Williams Sr., at his retirement in 1985. Photo credit: NASA/Sean Smith.

By: Denise Lineberry

At 3:30 p.m. each weekday, the windows of Patty Pigford's childhood home in Poquoson would start to shake.

"Mom would say, 'Kids get ready for dinner, your dad will be home soon,' " Pigford imitated. "We didn't need a clock, just the tunnel."

That tunnel was NASA Langley's 8-foot High Temperature Tunnel, where her father, Earl Williams, worked. In 1985, after more than 33 years at Langley, Williams retired.

Pigford began her Langley career in 1989 in the mailroom. Included in her daily delivery route was the tunnel that served as her dinner bell and her father's home away from home.

She is now a procurement clerk with Tessada & Associates, and her main responsibility is to expedite purchase orders. "I make sure what is purchased gets delivered on time. I also handle the files," Pigford said. "I keep track of where they are by using a file tracking system that uses bar coding."

Pigford enjoys her job and the people she has worked with over the years.

Her brother, Earl Williams Jr., has worked at NASA Langley since 1977. His career began in the printing plant and now he works in the Photo Lab, where he color corrects and enhances photographs.

Some of the most cherished photos for Williams Jr. and Pigford include those of their father, hard at work in the 8-ft. Tunnel. Those photos, along with many other memories, were captured in a retirement album presented to Williams Sr.

Some of those memories would rush back to Williams Sr. when he would return after his retirement to eat in the cafeteria with his children.

And many memories were captured and cherished in the mind and heart of Pigford.

Pigford recalled stories of her father, working in the steam plant, where his Langley career began. He would talk of driving around at night to check vents and seeing all types of animals near the Lunar Landing facility.

"He [Williams Sr.] worked with Charlie Carmarda at the 8-ft. Tunnel and they would joke about sending him to the moon. And then Charlie became a astronaut," Pigford said. "Dad went to see him when he was here for a meet and greet and, when he saw my dad, he came around the table and gave him a hug. My Dad talked about that a lot."

Growing up, Pigford recalls attending open houses at the center during a time when the landmark Hypersonic Wind Tunnel Vacuum Spheres on Langley Boulevard were shiny silver.

Pigford would save her own shiny silver and green birthday bills she received each year for spending at the NASA Langley carnival. "Once, I used all my money up trying to get a Snoopy Rocket (Apollo) stuffed animal, and my dad went and bought one off the guy for me," she said. "When I got older, me and my mom would head for the bingo area and dad loved to just walk around and talk with everyone."

Pigford has been married to Donald for 19 years and they have three daughters: Renee', Amber and Amanda. "And between them, we have five grandchildren: three girls and two boys -- the latest being a little girl, who is two months old," she said.

When she isn’t busy with family, she occupies her time with scrapbooking, reading and line dancing, which she has been doing for more than 15 years. She still resides in Poquoson.

She and her brother extend the opportunity for their children and grandchildren to create their own memories at NASA Langley. They have attended picnics and other functions on center.

"It seems like we have always been part of the NASA family," Pigford said.

"I am looking forward to spending a few more years out here and meeting more new friends and families," she said. "Both my dad and mom have passed on now, but I hope my kids will remember the fun times they used to have out here ... like paying $5 for a 50-cent saucer at the dime toss game."

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