HUNTINGTON - Stephen Ward was 5 years old when the Marshall plane crash occurred. Today, he's 50.
His father, Parker Ward, died in the crash near Tri-State Airport along with 74 others. Parker Ward owned Hez Ward Buick in Huntington. Sadly, he never came close to 50.
Parker was just 36 when the DC-9 jetliner carrying Marshall University's football players, coaches, staff and supporters, along with the crew of five, crashed, killing everyone aboard.
In the 45 years since the tragedy, Marshall's Student Government Association has done its best to keep the victims' memories alive. The SGA annually conducts a memorial service on Nov. 14, the anniversary of the crash. This year, the date falls on a Saturday.
Because Marshall plays a home football game that starts at 3:30 p.m. that day, the service will begin in the morning, rather than the traditional starting time of noon, according to Duncan Waugaman, SGA president.
The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. at the Memorial Fountain in the Memorial Student Center Plaza on campus.
Most important, the service will still take place on the 14th. And, as far as Waugaman is concerned, it always will.
"We would never move it from the 14th for any reason," Waugaman said. "We have too much respect for the families of the victims, many of whom still come to Huntington each year on Nov. 14 for this service."
Stephen Ward will be at the fountain that day, speaking on behalf of the families.
"I am so honored to represent the families associated with the tragedy," he said. "The love I feel for Marshall University and the city of Huntington cannot be measured. Remembering the 75 we lost on Nov. 14, 1970, is a special day for all of us. Thank you, Marshall University, for keeping their spirit alive."
Stephen Ward lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he works for Boehringer-Ingelheim Oncology. He manages nine representatives covering eight states, including West Virginia.
He is married to Shari Hage Ward, who also is from Huntington. They have two children - Lauren, 22, and Huntley, 20.
For those who cannot attend, the service will be livestreamed at www.marshall.edu/it/livestream beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 14.
"Heaven's Herd. We will never forget," Stephen Ward said.
MU memorial service set
The annual memorial service honoring the 75 victims of the 1970 Marshall plane crash is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, on the Memorial Student Center plaza, where the Memorial Fountain stands.
H-D web page about crash
A page at www.herald-dispatch.com titled "1970 Marshall Plane Crash: The Real Story" is full of information:
n Original game stories and rosters of the 1970 and '71 teams.
n Photo galleries of the teams, Fairfield Stadium and more.
n Biographical information about the victims.
n Stories about Jack Lengyel, Nate Ruffin and Red Dawson.
n A history of Marshall football.
n Coverage of the filming of the movie "We Are Marshall."
n A guest book for visitors to share their thoughts and memories about the teams.
To access the site, go to www.herald-dispatch.com. Hover your mouse on Sports, then click Marshall Plane Crash.