By Al Pickett
Wylie lost one of its biggest football fans when former school board member Audie Conder, Jr. died Jan. 17 at the age of 80.
Conder, who spent 50 years in the oil and gas industry including 25 years with Railroad Commission office in Abilene, loved Wylie High School, especially Wylie Bulldog football. He seldom missed a Wylie football game; in fact, he attended a Wylie bi-district playoff game in Lubbock less than two months before he died.
“He spent nine years on the Wylie school board,” said his wife, Marlene. “I remember him coming home from a school board meeting one night and telling me I wasn’t going to believe what was going to happen. He said they were putting in the Fairway Oaks addition.”
That announcement led to the transformation of Wylie ISD from a small country school to one of the fastest growing school districts in West Texas.
Conder was on the Wylie school board when it hired Hugh Sandifer in 1979. Sandifer has been the head football coach and athletic director of the hugely successful Wylie athletic program for the last 30 years.
“Audie was always supportive of Wylie sports,” Sandifer said. “When he went to Houston [M.D. Anderson Cancer Center] the first time, that was in the era of VHS tapes. I would mail him a VHS copy of our football games each week so he could watch our football games in his hospital room. I went to college [at Abilene Christian University] with his two older sons, and I coached his youngest son [Kregg] and several of his nephews. He was a huge part of the Wylie community. He will be greatly missed.”
Conder graduated from Rule High School in Haskell County in 1953 and went to work for Dowell in its Rule office in the fall following graduation. He and Marlene married in 1954. In 1958, they transferred to Colorado City, and then a little more than a year later, he transferred to Abilene, where they have lived since then.
The Conders had four children, Doug, Don, Kregg, and Kristie, as well as 15 grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren. Kregg, who now works for ExL Petroleum in Midland, said it was family that eventually led him to leave Dowell after a 22-year career with the cementing company.
“He had been asked to move to Freeport,” Kregg recalled. “[My parents] had been in Abilene for quite a while. I was in junior high, and we took a vacation for a fishing trip to Freeport. I thought we were just going fishing, but I learned later that they were going to Freeport to scope out the area. They decided it was best for our family to stay in Abilene. He was always looking out for family. That really hit home who he was.”
Conder resigned from Dowell in 1975 and started his own company, Conder Tank Cleaning. He then sold that business and joined the Railroad Commission three years later.
Kregg said his father’s love of both family and Wylie football once brought Audie one of his biggest dilemmas. In 2004, his granddaughter was graduating from ACU on the same night that Wylie won its first state football championship, beating Cuero in Waco.
“Dad went to his granddaughter’s graduation,” Kregg said with a laugh. “But then he got to a TV set as soon as graduation was over so he could watch the end of the state championship game.”
Marlene said Conder was buried with a Wylie cap in his coffin.
Al Pickett is a freelance writer in Abilene and author of four books. He also owns the West Central Texas Oil Activity Index, a daily and weekly oil and gas reporting service. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.