When asked about what they like most about Mallard Landing, most residents reply, “the people.” I’ve interviewed some people who live here — a few for many years, others as new arrivals. They all have interesting stories to tell. Here is one of them.
Ron missed his college graduation because he saw the handwriting on the wall. He was going to be drafted. To avoid that, he joined the National Guard and served his time at Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC. Now his six-month tour had ended and the young chemical engineer had only two job offers. One was from the Tennessee Gas Commission and the other was from NASA. He chose NASA. On the morning of Sept 16, 1960, he boarded a bus in Norfolk and rode to his new job In Temperanceville on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. It was a long, dusty trip on the two-lane Rt 13, particularly since he hadn’t had breakfast that morning. When he disembarked at the gas station/bus terminal, he discovered the closest restaurant and motel were 13 miles back the way he had just come. Welcome to Wallops Island!
Despite that rough beginning Ron remained at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility and had a front row seat for many exciting things. He was the only chemical engineer at Wallops … for 38 years! He became the safety engineer for the Sounding rockets and all other rockets that launched from there. Scientists brought their experiments to NASA to launch them into the stratosphere … but only if they passed Ron’s safety check. It was he who, each time a rocket launched, had his finger on the button to abort the flight if he thought something was going wrong. And it was he who was eventually asked to write the long-needed ground-safety, flight-safety and industrial-safety manuals. Over his career he was recognized and celebrated for his safety protocols that enable NASA in 1970 to launch 34 rockets in 3 days, 14 within a twenty-minute period and 11 of them in a 5-minute period in March 1970 without incident. He traveled around the world consulting with foreign governments on the safety of their space programs. And in May 1985 Ron received the Goddard Space Flight Center Safety Award of Merit for his personal dedication and outstanding performance in managing, developing and engineering a programmatic safety effort which (still) contributes to both a high degree of program success and safety. He was one of a kind!
While doing all that he found time to marry his sweetheart, Nancy and together they had two daughters, one works in transportation here at Perdue and the other works at Wallops where she specializes in computers and has successfully launched a satellite she helped to create.