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Heisman had Norwalk ties

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:19 PM

In the archives of the Norwalk High School Library there is a book titled "Principles of Football," written in 1922 by John W. Heisman, the head coach at the University of Pennsylvania. Does this name sound familiar? Yes, he is the same Coach Heisman for whom the Heisman Trophy is named.

What the real story in this is not the book and author, but the fact that the book was given to the High School Library by Mrs. Heisman, who signed the inscription in the cover as E. Maora Heisman, Class of '88. A quick check of the NHS alumni directory shows that E. May Ora Cole was graduated in 1888, and one can come to the conclusion that the famous John W. Heisman was married to a Norwalk girl!

Here's how it all happened: John William Heisman was born in Cleveland in 1869, and attended Brown University where he became entwined with college football. He transferred to Penn State in 1889 to study law, but football was his real love. After graduation he was coaching at Buchtel College in Akron, and had such good luck that he was asked to "moonlight" at Oberlin College to build up their fledgling team. He thus became Oberlin's first coach for the years 1892, '93 and '94. In the 1893 season Oberlin won all seven of its games, five of which had no scoring by the opponents. The team's points totaled 262, while the opponents scored only 30 against Heisman's coaching.

While coaching at Buchtel he became acquainted with E. May Ora Cole, a student there. She eventually used Edith Maora as her proper name. Edith was a first cousin to James E. Cole, who was principal of Norwalk High School for so many years. He, too, was a graduate of Buchtel, which is now the University of Akron. Edith's father, Sterry H. Cole, was a brother to "Jim" Cole's father, George W. Cole.

She was born Sept. 25, 1869, in Norwalk Township, in her father's house which stood about where the offices of Newcomer Concrete Services are located on Townline Road 151. After Sterry Cole died in 1876 his wife, Achsah Taintor Cole, purchased the house at 122 Benedict Avenue and that was the family home for many years afterward.

Edith Maora graduated from Norwalk High in 1888 and then enrolled at Buchtel College. Her courtship there with John Heisman was cut short when she developed asthma and moved to Denver for her health. There she met Henry Stone of Akron, called a "millionaire broker" at the time of their wedding in the Universalist Church in Norwalk in 1898. Edith had seven attendants in her wedding, and was given in marriage by her mother.

By 1924 both Edith and John were single again, and renewed their friendship. This resulted in their being married that year. They were living in New York City when John Heisman died Oct. 3, 1936. Despite her early problems with asthma, Edith lived to the great age of 95, dying in 1964 in Rhinelander, Wis. The Heismans are buried there, Edith having lived her last years in Rhinelander with her sister Lena Donaldson.

Much more could be written of John Heisman's career, but my purpose today is to tell the story of his Norwalk connection.

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