I can still see so vividly his kind smile and his warm, unguarded eyes, so ready to share the morning with a stranger. In no time at all we were in deep conversation. When I told I published a parenting newspaper, he told me some of his involvements with children, not boasting, just sharing. He said he bought some outrageous number of cases (not boxes; cases!) of Girl Scout Cookies every year, to resell or give away, but mostly to support a worthy children’s organization. He had been a Big Brother for many years, and founded an organization for high school athletes, the Charles “Cocoa” Maxwell Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Maxwell explained, with evident love and pride, that his son, a high school football star, committed suicide not long after graduating high school in 1989. To honor his son’s memory, Maxwell created a scholarship fund for other high school athletes.
For 25 years, the Maxwell Scholarship Fund has awarded grants to athletic high school seniors to allow them to pursue their education. Qualifications are beautifully straightforward: the student must simply be a senior graduating from any Santa Fe high school, particularly “those who are often overlooked or over-shadowed, yet who always make an effort” — not necessarily the school’s top student or top athlete, but “the one who gives 100 percent,” a quality for which Cocoa was dearly remembered.
To gather information for a newsbrief announcing the next application deadline, Maxwell referred me to Dr. Bobby Perea, a local chiropractor and past recipient of a Maxwell scholarship. Perea received two college football scholarships after graduating from Santa Fe High School in 1992, but he realized that playing college ball would get in the way of pursuing his real interest: medicine. A $600-a-year grant may not seem like a lot, but the Maxwell Scholarship allowed Perea to get his pre-med degree at UNM and then go to Dallas for his doctorate.
“It was huge, huge,” Perea said of the impact of the Charles Maxwell Scholarship. “It gave me a wind beneath my wings. I was able to go to college and not have to worry about playing football.” Dr. Perea was voted Best Chiropractor in the Santa Fe Reporter’s 2013 Best of Santa Fe poll.
Maxwell died last week, on February 13. The death notice notes “an apparent heart attack,” poignant considering how much his heart bore and how much it gave. His family asks that those who wish to honor Maxwell make a donation to the First Tee of Santa Fe, Santa Fe Special Olympics, Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern New Mexico, or children’s charity you choose.
The Charles Maxwell Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund will be taking applications again this year, with a 500-word personal statement and three letters of recommendation, due by April 15. Four athletes will be selected, two boys (in football or track) and two girls (in track). Learn more about the fund at http://cocoamaxwell.org/.
This year’s 22nd Annual Golf Tournament to raise funds for the scholarship will be held June 29 at a location to be determined. If you’d like to participate by playing golf, sponsoring a hole, making a donation or sponsoring a high school player, call (505) 471-8009.
Mr. Maxwell, I’ll have a cup of coffee for you at the new Tecolote when it reopens on St. Michael’s Drive. I’ll ask them how you liked it, and I’m sure someone will remember.