I enjoyed reading the article on the "Back Page" about Taylor Walters and his family. His grandmother and I are second cousins. I have really enjoyed watching Taylor and his teammates the past four years. It has been a great run.
In a recent Daily Sentinel article, McRae was asked if Walters was the best football player to ever play for Paonia High School. That got me to thinking. What about "Fum" McGraw?
"Fum" McGraw was a 1945 graduate of Paonia. The football team at that time may well have been one of the best ever; however, World War II changed all that as the boys left school as soon as they were able, to enlist in the armed forces. Let me tell you about "Fum." Some of the information is from Wikipedia and Colorado State University - Programs and People and some from personal experience.
Thurman "Fum" McGraw was born in Garden City, Kan., in 1927. The nickname "Fum" came about when a young family member could not pronounce Thurman and "Fum" stuck with him for the rest of his life. At some point the family moved to Paonia.
McGraw was fresh from action with the U.S. Marine Corps in WWII when he enrolled at Colorado State University in 1946, when it was Colorado A&M. Working diligently at his game, McGraw called upon lessons learned as a boxer and wrestler to fashion himself into a special breed of football player. His arm strength was crushing to opposing players and his agility developed through wrestling served him well when fending off enemy linemen. Colorado A&M finished 2-7 in McGraw's freshman season, but things would change quickly. As a sophomore, McGraw helped his Rams post a 5-4-1 mark, the team's best record in 11 years. Then, in 1948, the Aggies posted upsets over rivals Utah State, Wyoming, BYU and arch rival Colorado. The 1949 campaign, McGraw's last as a four-year letterman, saw the Aggies log a 9-1 record marred only by a loss to Wyoming. "Fum" is perhaps the most renowned athlete in CSU"s history, competing as a Ram in football, wrestling and track and field.
After graduation, McGraw joined the Detroit Lions and captured Rookie of the Year and All-Pro honors. He was an all-league tackle with the Lions when they were world champions in 1952 and 1953. In 1971, he was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and in 1981 was honored with induction into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame.
McGraw joined CSU's athletic department in 1955 as an assistant football coach, wrestling coach and physical education instructor. From 1965-1970, he was assistant director of athletics. He served as the school's athletic director from 1976-1986.
In 1999, the McGraw Athletic Center was dedicated and named after the legendary Ram.
In the spring of 1978 "Fum" was the speaker at Paonia's all sports banquet.
On a personal note, my most pleasant memory of "Fum" was in the summer of 1979. My daughter was a cheerleader for PHS, and I accompanied the girls and their sponsor to a camp at CSU. Upon arrival they found there was some kind of mix-up and the girls had not been assigned rooms and there were none available. The sponsor was at a loss to figure out what to do. I decided to see if I could help and set out for the athletic offices. Fortunately, "Fum" was in his office.
My sister Vivian and her husband Clair, 1944 PHS grads, knew "Fum" well both from high school and college. So I introduced myself as Vivian's little sister. I explained the problem with the cheerleaders, and he started singing the Paonia school song. I had to laugh. How many former alumni can remember the words to the school song? He said, "Oh, this will never do, we Paonians have to stick together." Within two hours the girls had rooms.
That was the last time I saw him. He was a giant of a man with a heart to match. He had two older brothers, Bill, PHS 1940, and Hershel, PHS 1941. Bill was the athletic director of schools in District 51 for a time and I was told that Hershel aspired to play football also, but lost an arm in World War II.
"Fum" passed away in 2000.
Delta's second annual "Kickoff to Christmas" takes place Saturday, Nov. 25. This event is sponsored by the Delta Area Chamber of Commerce and First Colorado National Bank.