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Nadine Wilson, the last surviving member in her generation of one of Jackson Countys pioneer families, and a pioneer herself in the field of girls high school sports, died Sunday morning, Sept. 12, 2010. She was 91.
In 1982, as she approached retirement that spring, an item in Sports Illustrated said that the magazines staff could not find a better overall coaching record than Wilsons 1,385 wins against 57 losses. It was compiled coaching an assortment of sports in Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio.
Ms. Wilson has lived since 2008 in Epworth Villa in Edmond. Her grandfather, Dr. Dolph Wilson, was among those who settled in the Elmer area in 1889, at the point when the area now known as Jackson County was severed from Greer County, Texas, to become part of Oklahoma Territory. She was born to Ed Wilson and Elma Colville Wilson on July 13, 1919, in Harold, Texas.
Her family returned to their home in Elmer before her first birthday. During her childhood, her father measured out a tennis court on a lot next to his general store to occupy his childrens time between chores. A passion for the sport remained with Ms. Wilson her entire life. She won tournaments at high school, college and senior citizen levels.
She graduated from Southside High School and excelled in several sports under the instruction of Jack Renfro, and was one of several of his students to attend Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater as student athletes. She completed a bachelors degree at OAMC to teach physical education and social studies. She later completed an MA in history at the University of Iowa.
Her masters thesis on Elizabeth I would influence her ideas of how to effectively blend discipline and acceptance to coach girls with a wide range of talent and ambitions for playing sports and unify them into a team. OAMCs athletic director and basketball coach Henry Iba would also influence her commitment to team building and in particular the role strong defense plays in winning basketball.
During World War II, she taught in Deval, and Pampa, Texas, before taking a job at Capitol Hill Junior High School in Oklahoma City. She stayed in Oklahoma City for 22 years, most of them teaching and coaching at Northeast High School. While there, she became part of an informal network of high school coaches who advocated for more competitive sports for girls and better working conditions for the teachers who coached them. Over time, their efforts led to the inclusion of sex discrimination in executive orders enforcing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and eventually the provisions of Title IX (enacted by Congress in 1972) that would require equal opportunities for both sex to participate in all extra-curricular activities in any school receiving federal funds.
One of her students at Northeast, professional golfer Susie Maxwell Berning, is among only three women inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. The women's golf program at Northeast won team or individual state championships during Ms. Wilson's tenure there.
In 1967, Ms. Wilson was hired to teach physical education and coach womens sports at Madeira High School in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. She quickly drew attention to her coaching abilities by having undefeated or near-undefeated seasons for her first four years in basketball, volleyball, field hockey and track. The state secondary-school associations didnt recognize girls championships until the mid-1970s, more than halfway into her tenure at Madeira. The schools 1978 volleyball team won the state championships.
Nadine was a disciplinarian. That has a lot to do with our success, Wyoming High School girls basketball coach Deb Gentile told a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter in 2000. She taught me to always love the team, because they are an extension of the family. If you show respect for them, they will always give it back to you.
She was inducted in 2001 into the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Associations Hall of Fame. She was also one of the initial inductees in the Madeira High Athletics Hall of Fame, and is a member of the Jackson County Athletics Hall of Fame, and LaRosas Cincinnati High School Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1949, she joined the staff of Green Cove Camp, a summer camp for girls near Tuxedo, N.C., where she was known as Willie. She worked summers there until 1976, over time becoming its assistant director, and returned for several summers following her 1982 retirement in a self-defining role that ranged from giving individual attention to some campers to providing an encouraging ear and institutional memory to the next generation of administrators. Her job title was Executive Grandmother and she was very good at it, Nancy Bell, the camps director, said. And even in her 70s she could beat the tennis instructors at tennis.
She was a tireless promoter of the role camp counselors played in helping girls reach their potential. Nadine worked tirelessly providing a professional example, support, and mentorship for countless campers and staff, wrote Rita Yerkes, who worked for Ms. Wilson as a counselor during the early 1970s before becoming a professional camping administrator and consultant herself.
The tennis courts at Green Cove are named after Ms. Wilson. She was also the namesake for a high school basketball tournament in Cincinnati and a lifetime achievement award for the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association.
Also after her retirement, she became active in Senior Olympics, competing in tennis, golf and basketball. She was a member of the Sooner Gals basketball team, which won either the gold or silver medal in every Senior Olympics competition it entered. The barnstorming team became a popular halftime attraction at college basketball games in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
She was preceded in death by her parents; four siblings, Ed Wilson Jr., Grady Lynn Wilson, Jerome Vernon Wilson and Betty Wilson Webb and partner Leah Eastham.
She is survived by six nieces and nephews, Cindy Wilson Cone of Newcastle, Steven Jerome Webb of Lakeland, Fla., Letty Wilson Bonnell of College Park, Md., Elizabeth Ann Webb of Pasadena, Calif., Virginia Wilson of Edmond, and Grady Lynn Wilson II of Denali Park, Alaska; in addition to several great- and great-great- nieces and nephews.
A graveside funeral will be held at 10 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010, at Altus Cemetery, across from Altus Air Force Base off Falcon Road. Arrangements are through the Lowell-Tims Funeral Home in Altus.
In lieu of flowers, her family requests donations be made to the Nadine Wilson scholarship fund through the The Frank and Calla Bell Scholarship Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 1192, Flat Rock, NC 28731. Please put Nadine Wilson's name be in the bottom left hand corner of any checks.
On line tributes may be made to the family at www.Lowell-Tims.com
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