Two Texas authors spoke Thursday, Oct. 17 at the 19th annual Friends of the Kaufman County Library luncheon.
“We all have the same goals,” author Marjorie Herrera Lewis told the 80-plus people attending the event at Calvary Baptist Church. “We just want people to read.”
Lewis is the author of When the Men Were Gone, a novel based on the real-life story of Tylene Wilson, who coached high school football in 1944 in Brownwood. Lewis developed a love of football as a child, then she became the first female sportswriter to work for the Fort Worth Star Telegram. As as a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, she was the first woman from any media outlet to cover the Dallas Cowboys.
Lewis told the audience about her first time covering the Cowboys at their spring camp in California, when a rookie ran up behind her as she walked off the field after watching a practice.
“You don’t belong here,” he told her.
She retorted that she had just seen him practice, and she would be at camp longer than he would.
She was correct – he was sent home the next day.
While Lewis said she faced some opposition as a female sportswriter in the 1980s, she knew that didn’t compare with the challenges Wilson faced as a female football coach in the 1940s. “We remember those who made their sacrifices,” she said.
Wilson coached football in part so her students would stay in high school instead of dropping out to join the war effort.
“She wanted them to have their childhood,” Lewis said.
When the Men Were Gone has been honored by Sports Illustrated and Newsweek and has entered its second printing and is in the process of being turned into a movie.
The second author at this month’s luncheon has a more unconventional background as an author. J.W. Wilson was a football player as a youth, not a reader, then went into the oil exploration business.
Wilson met Fort Worth artist Jon Lippens when the artist was in treatment for an advanced case of cancer, but after hearing about his youth in Belgium, Wilson said he was compelled to share his story. Wilson interviewed every Sunday for a year, compiling his story into Portraits of a Soldier: The Extraordinary Life of Jon Lippens.
As a 13-year-old in Belgium, Lippens joined the underground resistance after the Nazi invasion, ultimately joining the Polish army and Allied forces at the end of the war. When the Nazis first arrived in his town, youth in his school had to read Mein Kampf and join the Hitler youth organizations. To avoid that, Lippins joined a Red Cross work unit, identifying bodies in the aftermath of war and doing other tasks that no 13-year-old should have to undergo, Wilson explained.
“He never had a childhood,” Wilson said. Lippins worked for the railroad company by day, then sabotage their lines at night with the resistance fighters.
Both authors thanked the Friends of the Library for hosting the event. Margaret Shiels, who chaired the event, praised both authors for being willing to work on stories of ordinary people with stories “that were too compelling not to tell.”
Dave Randall, president of the Friends of the Library, asked the luncheon attendees to join the organization and support the library’s mission to serve young and adult readers in Kaufman County.