Growing up on her parents’ 90-acre farm near Climax, N.C., Sandy Waugh Bradshaw dreamed of being a flight attendant. But the reality was that she and her four siblings had to tend the more than 30,000 chickens being raised for a poultry producer.
But Pat and John Waugh didn’t hold their children back. At age 16, they were allowed to find another job.
That’s exactly what Bradshaw did, taking a job at McDonald’s until her 1981 high-school graduation, and then a series of secretarial positions during the next nine years.
An outgoing, competitive person, she once jumped in her car late at night to chase people who had stolen her brother’s off-road three-wheeler. She got the license plate and police later retrieved the three-wheeler.
Bradshaw kept her eyes on her goal, and in March 1990 joined US Airways as a flight attendant. Five months later, she was laid off during cutbacks. But beginning in October, when she married US Airways pilot Phil Bradshaw, her luck changed. By December of that year, she was working for United Airlines.
While family vacations in North Carolina had rarely ventured beyond the state’s borders, the Bradshaws saw the world: Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, the Caribbean and most of the United States.
“Every place we went we had a blast,” Phil Bradshaw said. “My wife loved to travel. That’s why we waited so long to have kids.”
Alexandria was born in 1998 and Nathan last year, and Sandy, 38, cut her flights to the bare minimum — two two-day trips a month from Newark to San Francisco or to Los Angeles.
“She always wanted to be here for the kids,” her husband said.
Yet she loved the day she had between return flights since it gave her a chance to relax, do her nails and catch up on her magazine reading before returning home to Greensboro, N.C. and her husband, children and flower garden.
Earlier this month, the nearly 3-year-old Alexandria once again asked her father at bedtime where mommy was.
“Mommy’s not coming home tonight is she?” she asked.
“No,” he answered. “Mommy was in an airplane crash and died.”
He said she gasped and then said, “Daddy, we’ll have to be strong for each other.”