HUNTINGTON — Every year on Nov. 14, the hub of student life at Marshall University, the Memorial Student Center Plaza, transforms into a quiet sanctuary.
"A sacred place," said university President Jerome Gilbert. "The transformation is almost a miraculous one, and it takes place each year by the coming together of people to remember the past and reflect on the memories of our lost loved ones. There is much emotion on this day, and this is where we all want to be on this day at this time."
The 75 lives lost Nov. 14, 1970, were honored Wednesday during the 48th Memorial Fountain Ceremony at Marshall. As the fountain was turned off for the winter, loved ones and current members of the Marshall Thundering Herd placed roses along the rim for each life lost when Southern Airways Flight 932 crashed just before reaching the Huntington Tri-State Airport on a flight home from eastern North Carolina. The crash claimed the lives of players, coaches, staff, supporters and the flight crew and devastated the city of Huntington.
For the first time, the keynote speaker was related to one of the five members of the crew of Flight 932.
Leslie Garvis was only 6 months old when her father, charter coordinator Danny Deese, died. Though her only link to the Jewel City is the crash that took her father, she said she has always felt a connection to Huntington. When she visits, her first stop is always the crash site, saying it's where she feels closest to her father.
"My journey to find my father has led me to Huntington and to Marshall," Garvis said. "Not only did I find my dad along the way, but I also found a sense of belonging and a sense of peace."
Garvis said the journey to find her father turned into a quest to ensure all the lives lost that fateful day were remembered.
"For the flight crew of Flight 932, that flight was like many others they had flown," she said. "Their thoughts were of getting to their destination, making sure their passengers had everything they needed and then getting home to their families. ... I am so thankful to be here today to introduce you to my father and five people who were not living in Huntington and had no connection to Marshall, but their lives are forever bound to this university, this town and all of us."
Along with Deese, Capt. Frank Abbott, First Officer Jerry Smith and stewardesses Charlene Poat and Patricia Vaught staffed the flight. They were veterans, new fathers, daughters and sons, all with a love of aviation.
Garvis has had to meet her father through the memories of others. He was handsome. He wore brightly colored socks - his favorite color, coincidentally, being green. He sent his wife a Mother's Day card the year before Garvis was born, because he knew how badly his wife wanted a baby and didn't want her to be left out. He loved flying, but loved his newborn baby girl more so. When family came to visit, he would barely even let them hold Garvis because he didn't want to let her go.
"After hearing that, I have often wondered if there was a part of him that sensed his time with me would be short and he wanted to make the most of it," she said.
Garvis said the legacy her father left behind was one everyone should strive for.
"My father never knew that 48 years later I would be up here talking about him and his legacy," Garvis said. "He never knew the impact he had on so many lives and how 48 years later people would still remember his smile and his kindness."
The ceremony Wednesday was livestreamed by the university. To watch, visit www.marshall.edu/it/livestream.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.