Eric Gessler, right, talks with Bill Forbes about the old days prior to the pre-game Thunder Walk with the Herd on April 26, 2008. Gessler, 56, died Monday after a long battle with cancer.

HUNTINGTON — Eric Samuel Gessler, 56, a member of Marshall’s Young Thundering Herd football team, died Monday at his home in the Big Flint community of Doddridge County, W.Va., after a long battle with cancer.

Gessler came to Marshall in 1971. That year, the NCAA allowed the school to play freshman to help fill out the roster that had been decimated a year earlier by a tragic plane crash. The chartered jet bringing the Thundering Herd back from a 17-14 loss to East Carolina on Nov. 14, 1970, crashed short of the runway at Tri-State Airport in Kenova. All 75 aboard died.

Gessler, 6-foot-3, 241 pounds,  started at center his final three seasons. In the 1974 Herd media guide, Gessler was called the keystone to the offensive line.

He graduated with a degree in marketing and attended Calhoun Engineering School in Baltimore, Md. Upon graduation he joined the Merchant Marines. He was later employed at Constellation Energy as a plant operator for more than 25 years.

Surviving are his wife, Shirley Gessler; one son, Michael Paul Gessler, USAF Elmendorf AFB, Anchorage, Ala.; two daughters, Michelle Atwood of Philadelphia, Pa., and Angela Atwood of Clarksburg, W.Va.; one brother, Paul Gessler of Melbourne, Fla.; one sister, Loretta Kissella of Lumberport, W.Va.; and several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. One sister, Anna Bohanon, preceded him in death.

 He was the son of Sophie Gessler and the late Paul E. Gessler of Clarksburg, W.Va.

Funeral services are 1 p.m., Friday, in the Spurgeon Funeral Home, 212 Front St., West Union, with former Marshall teammates Allen Meadows and Roger Hillis presiding. Family and friends will be received in the funeral home chapel from 2 to 8 p.m., Thursday, and after 9 a.m., Friday, until the service.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Peoples Hospice, P.O. Box 1680, Clarksburg, W.Va., 26301.




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