In memory of Wilma and Roger
Our community, and particularly the softball community, lost two legends in the last two weeks.
Wilma Lewellyn and Roger Hamilton were giants in their lives – to their families, to the softball world, to all the lives they touched and came across.
They were involved in softball for all of their adult lives, and that is where I dealt with them the most, so these remembrances are a little sports-heavy, but I know they had impacts in many more facets of their lives.
They leave families and friends with memories of softball, of course, but there are many, many others who will remember them for all the good things they did.
THE FIRST LADY OF CRAWFORDSVILLE SOFTBALL
Wilma was not just first in our hearts, she was first – period.
She played organized softball for 68 of her 85 years!
She was the first on, and last off the field for the very last game of last season just last summer down at Elston Park.
It was the women’s end-of-season tournament, and her team and I conspired that it was going to be a fund-raiser for her ongoing cancer fight. Yes, at 85 she was fighting cancer, undergoing treatments and still showing up every Tuesday with her team to play.
She was a trusted advisor as well as a player. No decision on some project or expenditure went without checking with her. She was our conscience, and our pride. You cannot begin to underestimate the number of times Bob Cash and I responded to men and women who were saying “I’m getting too old to play” with the “Wilma is 80-whatever years old and still playing. Don’t use age as an excuse.”
She was the anchor of her team. They stayed together because of her, and thankfully, they are going to stay together because of her. An email from her as the weather was turning warm was a sign to start getting softball organized. “When are we going to start?”
She anchored first base. I don’t know if in nearly 40 years I ever saw her play any other position.
She had a tradition/habit that I learned very quickly as an umpire not to mess with. At the end of her team’s at-bat, she would come out and pick up the ball off the field and give it to her pitcher. I found out that she always told her pitcher “three up/three down” but all I knew is that if I picked that ball up, I could NOT give it to her pitcher. I couldn’t even give it to her. The ball went back on the ground, Wilma picked it up and things went on.
She took two summers off for Covid, and there was no person on Earth happier than Wilma to get back on the field.
She came back, and never left until last week when she was “called up to the major leagues in Heaven.”
The stories from her funeral were more than just about softball, which was no surprise. Wilma was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, friend, helper, pick more descriptions. From the right way to snap beans and cut sweet corn to just how things ran at the New Richmond Post Office when she was Postmaster.
What softball meant to this wonderful lady was highlighted by not just one, but two baseball songs during the service, and then, at the cemetery, about 40 teammates and a few of us lucky others all had a softball bat in hand as an honor guard as her casket was carried to her grave. She was buried with her glove and the game ball from that last game last summer. I know she has already put in some practice in Heaven.
Playing first base for God’s team – Wilma Lewellyn.
Godspeed to our First Lady and First Baseman
A FOUNDING FATHER
I wrote Roger Hamilton’s retirement story just a few months ago. It is terribly unfair that the busiest man I ever met in Crawfordsville never got to enjoy that retirement. He and Walt were finally going to hang things up after a pair of 50-year careers, and I would bet that Roger probably just finished the last job on his list before he was taken from us.
Roger was a gigantic force in area softball. He spent a lot of time, and did a lot of the literal dirt work, building the new Elston complex some 40 years ago.
He was the hands-on builder, as he was the hands-on guy for everything he did in his life. When the fields were finished, he spent tens of thousands of dollars sponsoring a women’s team, and to no one’s surprise, they were state champions several times and competed at the national level.
He was still the guy on scene, too. When a pipe broke, or something was leaking, or the water wasn’t draining right, he had a piece of equipment at the complex. I will always remember one hot Saturday as we were hosting a semi-state or state finals with probably 60 teams playing, and the restrooms quit.
There was Roger, giving up what should have been a day off, in the pump-pit getting the toilets running so we could continue the tournament. What I was taught by the softball guys, and I never forgot, was that if we couldn’t get it fixed or solved on our own, the first call went to Roger Hamilton and he figured things out, because he was that problem-solving guy. I know that Rita Hamm had Roger on speed dial for years when she was in charge at Park and Rec. She taught me to put his number on my speed dial.
I’m pretty sure he was on a multitude of speed dials. He always had another project.
Everybody, and I mean everybody, who ever met Roger Hamilton has an opinion of him, because, as everybody know, he had an opinion on everything…
But at the end of the discussion, he was always there to make sure something got done right, or on time, or both. His initials would be everywhere if he put RH on every slab of concrete he put down, or driveway he installed. His fingerprints are on a couple thousand pieces of pipe that are buried in yards, parks or under streets and roads. He was involved in tearing down unsafe structures or building, nearly getting killed a couple times. He was involved in building a lot of structures, more than just softball fields.
You got the opinion, sure, but you got the results, and I really learned that the opinion was just part of this man’s incredible character. I learned that a couple minutes with Roger at his little picnic table at The Forum and a little bit of cigarette smoke was well worth it. Sure, there were results, but I will always appreciate his friendship and knowledge.
He was involved with several fraternal organizations, but I know he was the most proud of his role with the FOP Turkey Drive. Just another behind the scenes thing.
He deserved some time to enjoy retirement, but obviously that was not meant to be.
I know I express the condolences of a grateful softball family, and I’m pretty sure, for the entire Crawfordville community, to Walt and to all of Roger’s family.
There’s a job in Heaven that needed to be done. Roger got the call.
I’d like to be there when he gives St. Peter that first opinion.
Godspeed Roger, and thanks.
Jeff Nelson is a frequent contributor to the Journal Review and works professionally for Fox Sports assisting with NFL broadcasts and the Indiana Pacers.