Dufford, whose husband, Scott, is a member of the Midland City Council, recalls how her faith allowed her to see God's hand at work during the difficult experience of losing her parents.
"As a believer in Christ, there's a lot of commands in the New Testament about being thankful through trials," she said. "If you give thanks in everything, that includes the bad. It's been kind of my personality to see the good in the midst of trials."
Sanford, a junior at Lee High School, voices similar thoughts about the battle with cancer he has faced this year.
"My family has always been Christians. I've always been to church. I was saved when I was 12," he said. "Whenever I got the cancer, my faith got stronger. I learned to keep my faith in God and know that he knows what he's doing. I just need to sit back and let him have the steering wheel, so to speak."
Dufford, who is one of eight children, said her father always had a wonderful sense of humor, and his attitude taught her from a young age to not take herself too seriously and to keep a positive bent on life. From her father, Dufford also inherited a passion for music. Her father's musical aptitude was an asset to him during his time as a Navy seaman.
"Because he had perfect pitch, he would listen to the different pings of the submarines, and he could tell if it was a submarine from Japan or submarine from Germany," Dufford said.
Dufford majored in music at Bowling Green State University in Ohio before transferring with her husband to Texas A&M, and is an active vocalist in Midland, performing at weddings and participating in the chorale and symphony.
Dufford said she had prepared a devotional similar to her essay for a Bible study at Fannin Terrace Baptist Church, and the following day, she opened the paper, saw the Reporter-Telegram's essay contest, and decided she would submit an essay based on her devotion.
Dufford's two daughters are both married and live in Midland, and her son attends the University of Nebraska as a member of the school's golf team. Nonetheless, the Duffords are avid Texas A&M fans and attend every home football