HUNTINGTON -- Sharon Holbrook of Cincinnati made a special delivery Monday to Marshall University.
The memorabilia she delivered honors former Thundering Herd football receiver Jack Repasy, who died in the Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash. There's a white-and-green practice jersey with his No. 82 and picture, a 1970 color team photo, a "We Are. ... Marshall" movie poster and several press clippings. The jersey, team photo and movie poster are in frames.
Marshall's chartered jet bringing Repasy, his Herd teammates, coaches, athletic department officials and fans back from a 17-14 loss to East Carolina in Greenville, N.C., crashed short of the runway at Tri-State Airport in Kenova on that rainy Saturday night. All 75 aboard died.
Repasy's mother, Mary Beth, got the jersey from Kathy Weekly of Barboursville. Weekly got the jersey while she was a freshman and Phi Mu sorority member at Marshall at the time of the crash. She delivered on a promise to bring the jersey to Repasy's mom during a trip to Cincinnati in 2006. After Mary Beth passed away, that jersey went to Repasy's sister, Julie, who moved to California in 1978. After her passing in August, all the collectibles wound up in Holbrook's possession. Her family and the Repasy family were neighbors in Cincinnati when they were growing up.
"Out of respect and love the family made sure the items made their way back to campus," Holbrook said after turning over the precious cargo to Matt Hayes, executive director of the Marshall Alumni Association. It was Holbrook's first visit to campus since 1970.
Repasy, quarterback Bob Harris and lineman Mark Andrews were standouts at Cincinnati Moeller High School for coach Gerry Faust and came to Marshall together. They were sophomores at the time of the crash. Holbrook watched them play at Moeller and saw a few games at Marshall. She still has the program from the funeral mass held at Moeller.
Holbrook, joined by husband Mike on the trip, said she and Repasy were good friends growing up.
"He was like an older brother," she said. "He came to the house and we'd swim. Jack knew no fear. He broke the diving board once. He'd jump and jump and the spring cracked."
Holbrook elected to go to the University of Dayton. She was in the midst of a pledge to sorority when the crash happened. Activities were to wrap up Sunday. The crash happened Saturday, so her pledge process was put on hold. She got the news about the crash from a friend.
"I remember bouncing from one side of the hall to the next," Holbrook said as grabbed a tissue to wipe away tears while she recalled the worst sports-related aviation disaster in U.S. history. "I screamed and I screamed. It was incomprehensible. The guys were so alive."
Holbrook's roommate dated a Moeller grad and she got a ride to Cincinnati with him. During the trip, "He Ain't Heavy. ... He's My Brother" was one of the songs they heard on the radio.
The tragedy rocked the Dayton campus, but it hit closer to home to Holbrook for obvious reasons.
"Everyone was very busy," she said. "It didn't hit students as much because they were going home on (Thanksgiving) break. They were not there. I knew him. We had created a bigger bond."
From that point on, trips to the Repasy home proved troubling for Holbrook just as gathering the memorabilia to present to Marshall. She was named beneficiary to the items after Julie's death.
"I had flashbacks," Holbrook said. "It was interesting to see all this stuff again. In the Repasy home, they had a shrine to Jack."
Holbrook said Jack's death took its toll on his sister, prompting Julie to move to the West Coast. "Those three guys were the golden boys," Holbrook said.
On a trip to California, Holbrook saw "We Are. ... Marshall" with Julie. Actor Matthew McConaughey, who played Young Thundering Herd coach Jack Lengyel in the movie, signed the movie poster. The inscription: "JK Livin', Julie." That stands for "just keep living Julie."
"Julie thinks it was well done," Holbrook said. "She knew some of the coaches. The movie stirs up memories. It's still in the minds in people in Cincinnati."
Holbrook got emotional earlier on the trip when it came time to unpack the memorabilia. Hayes said Marshall will catalog the items. When and where they'll go on display will be decided later.
"It's in the final resting place," Holbrook said. "I'm sure Julie would want Marshall to have it. I'm happy it's done. I sort of felt the responsibility for this. I didn't want anything to happen to it. It takes you back."