Those tied to 1970 plane crash form an alumni group

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A group forged out of shared tragedy has come together with an aim of preserving the memory of the 1970 Marshall Football plane crash victims forever. The Marshall University 75 Family Alumni Chapter will hold its first event Friday night at 6 p.m. at the Keith Albee Theater in Huntington on the eve of this year’s 75 Memorial Game.

“We’ve put together a group of those of us who want to make sure the memory of our 75 is never forgotten. The chapter is basically setting the stage for future generations after we’re all gone to continue being a part of making sure their memory is honored and never forgotten,” said Leslie Deese-Garvis, President of the Chapter.

Deese-Garvis’ dad, Danny Deese, was a crew member aboard the ill-fated Southern Airways flight which crashed on approach to Tri-State Airport November 14, 1970. She was six months old.

“It’s been a healing process for the past few years and we continue to see this opportunity to put this group together as continued healing. Fifty-three years later, it’s just as fresh. It never goes away,” she explained.

Along with the organizational gathering at the Keith Albee Friday night, they’ll also have a tailgate tent during the pregame at the stadium Saturday and hope to meet as many people as possible. After officially chartering the chapter two months ago, the organization already has 100 members and hopes to add more. Direct relatives of those who perished in the plane are the core group, but Deese-Garvis said they had to expand to other groups because so many people were affected. The membership is expanded to family of players of the 1970 team who survived, along with those in the Athletic Department and Cheerleaders from 1970, the 1971 Young Thundering Herd, first responders and their families from that era, the1970 Southern Airways employees, and current first responders of the Ceredo and Kenova fire and police departments.

The Chapter has several plans to get off the ground, one is the creation of a scholarship fund. Deese-Garvis said it’s an effort to fulfill a promise made long ago.

“In 1970, the state of West Virginia put forth a resolution that tuition for the wives, sons, and daughters of anybody on the flight was to be waived at Marshall University, but that never got funded. We know we can’t go back in time, but we’re trying to pick up where that letter left off with our scholarship,” she explained.

The chapter plants to start an oral history project of the tragedy while working with the Marshall School of Journalism. They want to document each individual person’s story about the plane crash. Those stories, told in each person’s own words, will be recorded, documented, and housed forever in the Marshall University archives. They’ll be recording many of those oral histories of the crash this weekend in Huntington.

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