Bulletin Staff Report
A longtime Brownwood educator who graduated from Comanche High School and Daniel Baker College before beginning his 35-year career with the Brownwood schools has been named grand marshal of the Brownwood Reunion Celebration “Feels Like Home” parade this year.
Marion L. “Choc” Wetzel, who friends and family have described as an ambassador for Brownwood since 1939, will hold the parade’s position of honor, Reunion Celebration officials said.
This year’s theme for the eighth annual Brownwood Reunion Celebration is “Roots Run Deep,” and the choice of Wetzel as parade marshal is a reflection of that point, committee members said.
The announcement was made at a Monday afternoon committee meeting. The parade will be held in downtown Brownwood on Saturday, Sept. 20.
Wetzel was born June 27, 1917, about 12 miles from Comanche in the Harmony community, and worked most of his young life on farms and ranches until he decided “there must be a better way.” He and two friends hitchhiked to Brownwood and then walked from the traffic circle to Daniel Baker, where they applied for and received band scholarships. He also took a job keeping the college gymnasium clean, and doing laundry for the football team.
Wetzel played basketball and ran track for Comanche High, so he was able to pick up money officiating for high school events. He got another job at the post exchange when Camp Bowie opened.
While officiating basketball at Brookesmith, he met a teacher - Dorothy Nell Baker - and they were married in 1943, the same year he graduated from Daniel Baker. Wetzel left a job at the post office and went to work for the Brownwood school district in 1944, teaching math, Texas history and physical education and coaching at Central Elementary. That school, which was on property that is now part of TSTC, was where he worked for 16 years, until he was promoted to principal at Coggin Elementary in 1960.
Wetzel and his wife both earned master’s degrees from Hardin-Simmons University.
He retired from that position in 1979 to help care for his wife, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 1975. She died Jan. 19, 1984.
Wetzel joined the Brown County Sheriff’s Posse in 1979 and traveled throughout the state with them as ambassadors of the city and county. During his 20 years with the Posse, he rode three different horses.
The couple had two children. Grayson and wife Charlotte live in Goldthwaite, and Kristi and husband Jerry Nelson live in Brownwood. Wetzel has three grandsons, three great-grandsons and two great-granddaughters.
Wetzel has been a member of First Baptist Church of Brownwood since 1944, and was ordained as a deacon in 1948. Grayson Wetzel and his parents purchased acreage between Brownwood and Zephyr in 1963, he has been a fixture there since. His son has dubbed him the “mayor of the highway” for his willingness to change flats for motorists, get fuel for drivers who run out and help with directions or other needs.