Marjorie Herrera Lewis’ historical novel “When the Men Were Gone,” about Brownwood woman Tylene Wilson’s stint as a high school football coach at Brownwood High School during World War ii, is a combination of truth and fiction.
The scenes depicting Wilson’s husband, John, working on fishing lure in the couple’s garage are true, Lewis said by phone Friday as she talked about her first novel, which is set in Brownwood and was released earlier this month.
Lewis will be the guest at a meet-and-greet beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday at Greenleaf Cemetery, where Wilson – who died in 1992 at age 88 – is buried with her husband.
“Oh, I’m excited,” Lewis said of her visit to Brownwood. “It’s always a lot of fun to go to Brownwood. “I’m just thrilled that this is happening.”
The real-life Wilson actually coached at Daniel Baker College, although Lewis believes she might have also done some coaching at Brownwood High School.
Lewis, a native of Santa Fe, N.M., lives in Grapevine with her husband, Chuck, and is typically described as a journalist, football coach and novelist – all accurate descriptions.
A graduate of Arizona State University, Lewis worked at small newspapers before working at the Fort Worth Star Telegram and later the Dallas Morning News sportswriting staff, covering sports for both newspapers. Her assignments included covering the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and Dallas Mavericks.
Lewis also served on the football coaching staff for a year at Texas Wesleyan University.
An article by Scott McDonald on www.texasfootball.com states that Lewis had a conversation with one of Wilson’s great-nieces, and Lewis set out to write Wilson’s story. Lewis couldn’t find enough information on Wilson’s actual life, so she wrote a novel of historical fiction and placed Wilson as head coach of Brownwood High School while the men were away at World War II.
Wilson faced opposition by the press, the community, rival coaches, referees and even the players, reviews of the novel explain. Her players ended up rallying around her.
Lewis currently teaches a course in media ethics at the University of North Texas and is a contributing writer to sptspage.com. She said she and her husband were in Brownwood this past summer and decided to stop at Greenleaf Cemetery to see Wilson’s grave.
Greenleaf representatives who met her asked her later if she would attend the Greenleaf meet-and-greet.
We are very honored to host Marjorie at Greenleaf,” Steve Harris, president of the Greenleaf Cemetery Association board, said via email. “Tylene is laid to rest at Greenleaf, so after recently learning of Marjorie’s novel, I reached out to her on behalf of the board and staff of Greenleaf.
“We are charged with the perpetual care of all who are laid to rest at Greenleaf and we are very much interested in learning more about the amazing dash (1904-1992) of Brownwood’s legendary Tylene Wilson.”
Harris said he believes a Texas Historical Commission marker soon in honor of “the inspiring accomplishments of this amazing woman.”
Lewis said Wilson was “so ahead of her time. It was the 1940s.”