Son of Orange County
Richard Lewis Sanford was born in 1920 at Woodley Farm near Orange, Va. He was the son of Harry Estil Sanford and Mary Lewis Sanford. Richard and his eleven siblings were the third generation to live at Woodley Farm.
Dick Sanford graduated from Orange County High School in 1939. He attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and graduated with an agronomy degree in 1943.
He joined the United States Army Air Force and served in World War II from 1943 until 1946. Dick was an aerial flight engineer in the 9th Air Force in the European Theater. His unit received the Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster. Dick was also twice awarded the Air Medal and three Campaign Stars.
Service to Waddell Memorial
After the war, Richard joined the U.S.D.A. Soil Conservation Service in Culpeper and Rappahannock Counties. At the time he lived in Rapidan. Dick served as Sunday School Superintendent at Waddell Memorial Presbyterian Church. He was also a Deacon and an Elder in the church.
Dick met Thelma Bates at a Pot & Kettle Club dance in Culpeper in 1947. Thelma was teaching High School English in Madison County. They married 18 months later. The couple had two children, Stephen Richard and Cynthia Gayle.
Dick's service to OPC
In 1955, Dick and Thelma transferred their membership to Orange Presbyterian Church. Dick served OPC as he had Wadell. He was an Elder, Deacon, and Sunday School Superintendant. He also served as Clerk of the Session and a Trustee.
Dick was also on the planning council for building the new sanctuary. He taught Adult Sunday School class from time to time and was active as president of the Men of the Church.
“Mr. Sanford’s steadiness and his concern for people’s feelings make him a faithful member of the session.”
- Presbyterian Punch 1976
Service to Orange
For forty years, Dick was the estate manager of Grelen Farms in Orange County. As such, he and was recognized as an agricultural leader. Dick served on many local organizations, including the Orange County Nursing Home board.
“On August 22, 1982, the Sacrament of Baptism was administered to Richard Hill Sanford, infant son of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Richard Sanford. Among those attending were Mrs. Mary Lewis Sanford, young Richard’s great-grandmother and former member of this Church; Richard Lewis Sanford, Richard’s grandfather and current member of the Session, baptized in this Church June 12, 1921; Richard’s father, Stephen Richard Sanford, baptized in this Church July 25, 1963. Also attending was Samuel Ross Sanford, baptized in this Church July 25, 1926 and currently Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church of Fredericksburg and representing that congregation of which Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Sanford are members.”
-Emma H. Bartley, Historian
A life in education
Thelma Sanford graduated from public schools in Madison County. She returned there for her teaching career, spanning 28 years. In 1947, she received a degree in English and Science from Mary Washington College. Thelma later obtained a Masters Degree in educational counseling from the University of Virginia.
Thelma was a teacher and guidance counselor at Orange County High School for 18 years. She also was Curriculum Coordinator and Guidance Counselor at what was then known as Piedmont Technical Education Center in Culpeper County.
Thelma was a member of the Orange County Historical Society, the James Madison Museum, and the Friends of Montpelier.
Thelma's service to OPC
She was a member of the Orange Presbyterian Church for 60 years. Thelma faithfully participated in and supported the work of the church in many ways. She served as an Elder and was the church historian for five years. She was active in the Women of the Church and for a time, served as Secretary.
Thelma Pearl Bates Sanford passed away in 2014 and Richard Lewis Sanford passed away in 2016. They are survived by a son, Stephen Sanford and his wife, Norma of Orange; a daughter, Cynthia Webster and her husband, Thomas of Roanoke; six grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.
Orange Presbyterian Church has been blessed by the many generations of this Sanford family and their Christian principles.
- Jennie Hill Robinson
OPC History Team