Popular resident ‘Little Bill’ returns home for first time since April 2011 tornadoes
by Jennifer Cohron
Jul 08, 2012 | 4455 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Johnnie “Little Bill” Sanford waves to passers-by from the front porch of his new home. Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
Johnnie “Little Bill” Sanford waves to passers-by from the front porch of his new home. Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
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CORDOVA — One of First Street’s most well-known residents is back at home.

Johnnie “Little Bill” Sanford has been seen smiling and waving at passers-by from his front porch recently.

Sanford’s home, which he rents from the adjacent Freewill Baptist Church, was severely damaged in the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.

He lived in Parrish with his sister, Tommie Sides, for a couple of months but quickly grew homesick.

“He threatened to come back and live under a rock bluff. He just loves Cordova,” Sides said.

Sides added that many people had also become concerned when they didn’t see her brother around town after the storm.

Sanford, 70, is slightly mentally challenged because of a childhood accident. However, Sides said she doesn’t have to worry about him too much because he has numerous friends and neighbors who watch out for him.

Although Sanford doesn’t drive, he never makes it far on foot before someone stops to offer him a ride.

If he can’t make it down to the local diner for dinner, owners Jeff and Von Traweek will deliver to him.

Last fall, Sides called the police department one Friday night to check on her brother. She was quickly informed by the dispatcher that he was chatting with the officer working security at the football game.

Members of Freewill Baptist Church, where Sanford attends, are part of his extended family. They installed a sidewalk from his back door to the church for his safety and helped him find temporary housing in Cordova while his home was being repaired.

Sanford moved back to First Street in mid-June, and Sides said her brother couldn’t be happier.

“We appreciate everybody who has been so good to him. Everybody loves him and he loves everybody,” Sanford said.