Center Snapshot - John Hefner
John Hefner. Image above: John Hefner helped to move the Pad Abort-1 flight test article to the Hanger earlier this year.
Credit: NASA/Sean Smith.

By: Jim Hodges 


If it's Thursday, then John Hefner is at the Lackey Free Family Medicine Clinic in Yorktown.

"I'm the bouncer," he says, laughing from behind his desk in Building 1244.

In fact, he spends four hours a week on the front desk in Yorktown, screening patients and keeping order in the clinic, which sees thousands of patients every month. Hefner's only sorry he can't be there eight hours a week.

“Bride” of 32 years Cyndi turned him onto it, and Hefner has learned that by giving, he gets.

"I'm very blessed," Hefner says. "When I retire, I'll probably do more."

His work at Lackey is through his church, Northside Christian. As head of the deacons at Northside, if Hefner isn't at Lackey, he's probably at the church, working on its maintenance and with children's programs.

It's his primary off-center avocation. At NASA Langley, Hefner is the facility coordinator for the Hangar. As such, he wears enough hats and helmets to fill a tree. He's the building safety official, works in aviation ground safety and just about any other aspect that is encompassed in keeping one of the center's busiest buildings going.

It's a building that has become even busier since Space Exploration moved in just over a year ago.

"Lackey is relaxing," he says. "After being out here and dealing with everything you have to deal with here, it's relaxing to be there."

There is a guitar in a stand alongside his desk. More relaxation? Yes, and then some.

"I'm trying to widen my horizons," Hefner says.

He played in his youth – mostly folk music, some classical -- then stopped 25 years ago. Now he's trying the instrument again.

"I want to play with the 'Praise Band' at church," he says. "I used to play by ear, but now I'm trying to teach myself to read music."

He's also trying to fill some of the time he used to spend on the '97 Harley Davidson Electra Glide motorcycle he gave up two months ago because doctors told him to. It still rankles, giving up the bike. The Harley fit with his balding head, the silver Peace Feather dangling from his left ear lobe. He rode with thousands in Washington's "Rolling Thunder" and with the Christian Motorcycle Association.

At church, he took children for a ride on a staked-out, "safe" course. "They loved that motorcycle," he says.

He did, too.

The only thing harder than giving up the Harley was giving up smoking. That one, Hefner says, took some prayer.

His work at Lackey provides some of the peace that he lost when he gave up smoking. The guitar offers more diversions. Then, of course, there is the work, which is demanding.

And he has found a way to replace the Harley.

"Replaced it with a four-wheeler," Hefner said. "Chrysler Sebring convertible."

He rubs his hand over his head and laughs again and says, "I just put the top down and let the wind rush through my hair."