Marietta and Bill Towry. Photo via picassa.

This comes to us from Mary Annavedder who writes for Point in Line, the publication of the USFCA. Mary conducts a regular series of interviews of coaching members of the USFCA.  These interviews provide insights as to how the coaches have gotten into the profession, how they balance fencing with their other lives/jobs (if any) and any tips or advice that can be offered to aspiring coaches.

When did you begin fencing and what were the reasons behind it?

Marietta – My father, Tinnin Windsor, had started me lunging at a target against my bedroom door. I was fine when he was around, but I was too bored to practice alone. The fellows at the Officers Club at Ft. Brown, Texas, were very old (from my 11-year-old point of view) and I never really went there. This was 1941. I saw no women fencers until college years.

I began in earnest in 1947, when Daddy formed the Border Division in El Paso along with his club, Sala de Armas Windsor. (See more information on the Border Division’s activities at the end of the interview.)

Bill – I was in marching band, as was Marietta. Several friends met to try fencing in the Windsor’s living room with weapons ordered from Wilkinson Sword in Great Britain and Castello in New York.  We were enthusiastic and talked Col. Windsor into opening a club.

When did you become interested in coaching fencing and what brought you to it?

Bill – At Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. I assisted the Army coach, Al Nazarino, at Kansas State, as I had done at Sala Windsor.  Col. Windsor was in the NFCAA (publicity) and had proposed me for membership.

Marietta – There were no women members in coaching, nor refs, nor touches below the hips in foil (at 4 touches). It was a different world.

Marietta -Bill’s job was in Oklahoma City. For entertainment we liked to dance, but this was the “Bible Belt:” no dancing. Back in 1951, recreation was golf and tennis for the country club types, bowling and beer for the rest.  The “New” YMCA was opening. We offered to teach a fencing class,  got  a bit of gear, and five people registered…Oops, Bill was transferred to Wichita Falls , Texas.  So, to the Wichita Falls YMCA, classes again – both of us teaching.

Marietta – We taught basic competitive fencing…folks paid for the class thru the Y, and bought their own gear.  Foil $6.00, Mask $10, jacket 12.00 – From Castello, and Santelli. AFLA dues were $2.50.

When did you begin a club and how is it run?

Marietta – We moved from Wichita Falls, Texas, to Dallas about 1953, and joined the Dallas Fencer’s Club which was meeting at the Downtown YMCA, on the roof in the summer time and in the gym in the winter. After our experience with the club in El Paso and ours in Wichita Falls, the Dallas club seemed to be rather disorganized, and being the aggressive types that we are, we were soon leading the classes and running the club. Our style has always been the “benign dictator” style although we usually are willing to listen to good advice, and try to go to clinics and seminars as often as possible to stay up to date.

Marietta – In the latter 50s a women’s coach’s group was proposed, but dropped and women were included soon in the NFCAA.  Somewhere in the ’60s we were both “grandfathered” in as three-weapon coaches.

Marietta – Bill was the perpetual chair of the North Texas Division for 30 years.   In 1985, our business responsibilities and family ties caused us to move back to El Paso.  When we arrived the fencing community of the Border Texas Division was at a real ebb. There were no more than eight fencers, mostly young adults. Uniforms were not required at meets and entry fees were $2.00 per event. There was one metal strip and one machine. So, Bill was again elected division chair and began the process of rebuilding. The USFA had allowed Border Division to continue without closing it down as it dated back pretty far with its origins. Or the division was simply lost in the roster.

Bill – Marietta started a youth program through a continuing education program at UTEP in an old abandoned Synagogue that had achieved Texas Historical status, with five high school boys from the area high schools.  We were then the UTEP Continuing Ed Junior Fencing Team.

When does your club practice and how many hours each time?

Both – After moving to the UTEP Continuing Education Program for several years we were very fortunate to acquire a suburban location in an old Wynn Dixie Food store. That was about the time that Bill retired from his “Day Job” and went full time as a fencing coach. That would have to have been about 1992. The team became Texas Excalibur. Our colors are blue, white, and orange.

Youth/Cadet classes are held on Tuesdays & Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Adult Beginner Classes, private lessons, and bouting are on Monday and Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Students enrolled in the classes are entitled to one lesson per week. Classes are paid by the month. Dues are either by the month or payable by the semester (fall and spring).

What classes do you offer in your club?

Marietta – We teach foil & epee. Someone pointed out recently that it is well over 700 miles to the nearest decent saber referee. That doesn’t help the progress in any weapon, but saber is always being asked for. So Bill gives in – tired of watching guys cut and chop, and will do a saber clinic. With another coach we will expand the youth program, camps, conditioning, etc.

Bill – A few years before I came to UTEP there had been a fencing recreational sports program.  It was run by Gerard Poujardieu Jr., (of all people, a central Texas family friend).  I have been there since 1985, teaching a beginning fencing class and a recreational sports club.

If you are involved with a school, how did you get it to begin a fencing program?

Bill – I went in and asked for it by name…but fencing is the best kept secret on campus.  It is strictly a club.  When we won the Western Region Championship last year against Swarthmore College, CalPoly, etc, it did not even make the campus paper.

What has been your satisfaction in coaching?

Bill – Watching and guiding young kids/or students develop into fencing athletes who enjoy what they are doing.

Marietta – My joy is competitive coaching by the strip.  To have execution by fencers award them with success, because they see and understand what is in front of them, when the computer, that is the coach, gives them the options to choose, and they know what to do, and do it well.  That is very rewarding!

How has the USFCA helped you in your coaching?

Marietta – It has really helped. Absolutely. The area clinics and national meetings are fine examples of what is going on in the “real’ world of fencing, which is pretty broad.

Bill – It has most certainly.  It is the carrot in front of the donkey.  It has kept us going, or we would bog down. The USFCA offers such a variety of styles and innovation. It is continuing education for the coaches.

How are you involved with the USFCA?

Bill – Dare I say, this year:  The nominating committee.

Are you also involved with the USFA? How so?

Bill – A very busy member as a coach and Congress representative.

What success have your students had locally?

Bill – Locally: Cadet, Junior, Open, and Veteran is all Texas Excalibur. Currently, our youth are just getting into competition. Our club is strong and fills most of the spots, with a challenge to us every week or so from within our small division.

What success have your students had nationally, or internationally?

Bill – Nationally, we have had a very good year.  Beginning with 2009 Nationals – Div II Womens Epee champion.

NAC E: 1st Div III MF, 3rd and 6th Div II MF

2nd, 5, and 8 Div III ME

Div IIMF Team: 2nd

Div IIME Team: 2nd

Since Southwest section is qualifying I am listing it here:

1st Div1A ME and 1st U-19ME

Have any of your students become coaches?

Bill – Yes, our very first student, Sgt. Larry Cupchoy, US Army, was NFCAA in the ‘50s, and taught in Hawaii. He also won the All Army Epee in Marsailles, France. We were lucky to have an “International” so early. He wrote a Special Delivery Air Mail letter every day of the event.

Another student, Jeff Crowe, in Dallas has a club (Renaissance) and is the North Texas Division Chair.

Michael Ross began refereeing under me when I was doing clinics, etc., and is continuing in that vein. It’s not exactly coaching, but similar.

How do you balance working, coaching and family life, if you have a non-coaching job as well?

Marietta – I teach beginner fencing at UTEP and adult continuing education… no coaching there.  Bill handles the Fencing Center. Family life?  You jest!  Our family life with the two of us IS fencing.  Oh, we do see our grown band director daughter during her concert All-State season (if there is not a big fencing event concurrent) and sort of vice versa.



  • Pamela Towry Church, August 8, 2010 @ 4:13 am

    Thanks so much for featuring my parents in this interview! They are certainly amazing and make me so incredibly proud. I can only hope to have 1/2 their energy in MY 80’s!!

  • Pamela Towry Church, August 8, 2010 @ 12:13 am

    Thanks so much for featuring my parents in this interview! They are certainly amazing and make me so incredibly proud. I can only hope to have 1/2 their energy in MY 80’s!!

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