By clopez | email@example.com
SHE was born Nora Lee Siemering but to most everyone she was always “Maw” Wilson. She married George Hamilton Wilson, and together they left their Southern roots and moved to La Jara in 1927.
Maw immediately took to the local basketball scene and became the score keeper for La Jara High School, a responsibility she took very seriously. She and “Pa” Wilson eventually had nine children of their own, but the boys on the basketball team were also her responsibility and she did all she could to support and help them through their school years.
“That’s what my wife and I now try to emulate,” says Curt Wilson, Maw’s great-grandson and superintendent of the North Conejos School District. “Helping the kids through sports and their academics.”
When war came to the U.S. on Dec. 7, 1941, following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s continued march through Europe, life changed for everyone in the country. Young men – high school and college age – felt the urgent call to enlist in the military, and communities like La Jara and others in the Valley had to figure out how to continue at home.
That’s when Maw Wilson went from scorekeeper to La Jara High boy’s coach – the first woman anywhere to assume such a role, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
“When the war came on, and the staff did not include a coach, Mrs. Wilson took over as coach,” reads a dedication. “She worked with 50 boys at a time. The few requirements she set up, she rigidly enforced. There was to be no smoking or drinking; every boy must attend church or Sunday School regularly. She made no distinction between race or creed, but accepted them all if they obeyed the rules.”
As part of a 50th anniversary celebration of Title IX adoption in 1972, the National Federation of State High School Associations is publishing a series of milestones on pioneering women who led in their time. “Colorado’s Maw Wilson, A War-Time Pioneer In Boys Hoops,” reads the NFHS Title IX Milestone for her.
“Any person that I talk with who has gray hair has a recollection of her and basketball,” says her great-grandson.
“She was a good lady, a kind lady, but a tough lady.”
He’s not exactly sure why his great-grandmother took to basketball other than “she really liked competition.”
“Basketball was indoors, it was competitive, it had a great social scene with everyone in the community coming out to watch, and I think she just wanted to do something good for the kids.”
She was never paid to perform the job of coach, and she and Pa Wilson always threw the season-ending party for the team, something not lost on the school superintendent.
“We want to do what they did for the kids,” he says. “Whatever we have to do to help kids succeed we do, and that’s because of her legacy and the Maw and Pa legacy.”
Somewhere she’s keeping score.