The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Wahlman made big impact on our little village


August 26, 2018

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but a village blessed by a gentle giant who made it his mission to properly raise the children of the village is going to turn out good citizens.

The entire Portales community lost a teacher, mentor, coach and role model when Bill Wahlman died last week.

Wahlman taught school for 36 years in Portales, 25 of them in the same classroom at L.L. Brown Elementary. By the time he had finished coaching tennis at Portales High School he had been with Portales Municipal Schools for 52 incredible years.

He was also the backbone and often the strong back of the Portales Recreation Program for decades as director, coach and umpire. He made sure everything was perfect for every season and he made sure the kids and coaches knew what was expected of them when they stepped on that field or court.

Every kid wanted to be in Wahlman’s homeroom when he was teaching. I was fortunate to have come up through L.L. Brown but unfortunately didn’t land in his homeroom. It didn’t matter, we got to switch classes during the day each day and be in his room for a little while anyway. And then there was always recess.

Recess at Brown meant pass-and-catch with Wahlman in the role of Roger Staubach. He somehow got the ball to every kid playing and he made you feel like you were special, like you mattered even when you weren’t real good.

When I started playing City League baseball, before we had Little League in Portales, Wahlman was a fixture behind the plate with an umpire’s mask and chest protector. We all longed to see the bulldog jowled man sweep the plate with his whiskbroom and in a booming voice shout “play ball.”

It was the only time he raised his voice. He handled controversy without anger and always in a kind, soft voice. He started with a big advantage, though, because no one wanted to disappoint the man or fall short of his values.

Wahlman also had a photography business and specialized in team photos and school group photos. It would be hard to find a family in Portales that doesn’t have an album or boot box full of black and white prints developed and printed by hand by Wahlman.

He also did freelance action sports photography for the newspaper. For years I remember seeing him on the sidelines or under a basketball goal snapping photos with a twin-lens reflex camera and a huge flash.

I saw him shooting games and wanted to do that someday myself and I did. It wasn’t as glamorous or easy as it looked. My respect for the great results he accomplished in a part time job grew immensely over the years.

I grew up in the same church family as Wahlman and his sweet wife Shirley and got to see them as they constantly did so much to make a difference for people. From simple words of encouragement or support to gifting an apartment complex to the New Mexico Children’s Home that became the seed of a now wildly successful single-parent ministry. Just making the effort to be with us at church when his body was failing him was a huge encouragement.

The couple never had biological children of their own but they impacted the lives of thousands of youngsters in our little village.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:


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