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Marietta Towry, American Fencing Pioneer, Passes Away

01/20/2022, 1:00pm CST
By Serge Timacheff

Marietta Windsor Towry, American fencing pioneer and coach, passed away in El Paso, Texas on December 23, 2021, at the age of 91. One of the earliest women in the USA to referee and coach, she was involved in fencing for eight decades and was best-known as the fencing coach for the University of Texas at El Paso. She taught and coached there for 30 years, retiring at age 83.

Ms. Towry was one of the first U.S. women to gain an international referee license, and also one of the first women to earn a Prevot D’Arms certification—notable especially because, to pass, an exam had to be taken in all three weapons while at the time women could not fence epee or saber. 

An obituary received from the U.S. Fencing Coaches Association stated, “Through her resiliency, her great sense of humor and the unwavering support of her husband, Marietta was able to break through barriers and open the doors of opportunity for other women interested in fencing coaching or refereeing.”

Born on March 15, 1930 in Dallas, Texas, her family moved to Brownsville, Texas, where she learned to fence in her living room at age 11 by her father, Colonel Tinnin Windsor, who was a fencing instructor.

Later, with her husband, William “Bill” G. Towry, whom she met in college band, married in 1951. Together they built a successful fencing program in Dallas, the Dallas Fencers Club, and at the same time Ms. Towry pursued being a competitive fencer herself for several decades. She and her husband returned to El Paso in 1985, and she began teaching at UTEP the following year. In 1988, she and her husband opened the El Paso Fencing Center.

In addition to being a talented fencing coach, Ms. Towry was regarded as a gifted artist, community leader, lover of the arts and devoted mother and wife. She and Mr. Towry had recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

She is survived by her husband, Bill, and daughter, Pamela Towry Church. A memorial in El Paso honoring Ms. Towry’s life and accomplishments was held on January 15, 2022.

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