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Marshall holds 46th annual memorial service

Herald-Dispatch photo by Lori Wolfe Marshall football players place roses along the edge of the Memorial Fountain honoring the lives lost in the 1970 plane crash during Marshall University's 46th Annual Memorial Fountain Ceremony on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, at the Marshall Memorial Student Center Plaza in Huntington.
Herald-Dispatch photo by Lori Wolfe
Marshall football players place roses along the edge of the Memorial Fountain honoring the lives lost in the 1970 plane crash during Marshall University’s 46th Annual Memorial Fountain Ceremony on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, at the Marshall Memorial Student Center Plaza in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — For almost 30 years, Dennis Foley had a hard time talking about his experience as a football player during the 1970 season at Marshall University.

On Monday, the former linebacker told countless sons and daughters of Marshall the story of how an injury kept him off of the fateful flight on Nov. 14, 1970, and how the event changed his life.

Foley was the keynote speaker during the 46th annual memorial service commemorating the 1970 plane crash near Tri-State Airport that claimed the lives of 75 people, including Marshall football players, coaches, supporters and the crew on board as they returned home following a game against East Carolina University. The ceremony annually takes place each Nov. 14 in the Memorial Student Center Plaza on Marshall’s campus.

An 18-year-old Foley didn’t make the trip to East Carolina in 1970 due to an injury, and he talked about how he heard the news of the crash as he was getting off of an elevator in the former South Hall. Foley said he and two other students attempted to access the crash site with two friends the night of the crash and returned to campus to a crisis center that had been set up, where he ended up meeting the woman who would become his wife.

“In 1969, I accepted a football scholarship to play at Marshall University,” Foley said. “Little did I know the course of events I set for my life, affecting not only me, but every family member, friend, neighbor, classmate and roommate of everybody on that plane.”

Foley and his friends eventually made it to the crash site on November 15, 1970, and he described the twisted metal wreckage they saw before returning to campus.

He said it took 30 years, until the release of the documentary “Ashes to Glory” in 2000, before he could talk about his experience at Marshall freely, whether with strangers or with other people who experienced the event firsthand, and Monday marked an important moment in his personal story.

“This is my story, my Marshall story,” Foley said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever told it to anyone beginning to end. I’ve only spoken of it here and there. I have just a few hopes that will come out of me sharing this story. First, I hope that for all of you my words have helped you to understand the magnitude of that night and the magnitude of its effect on so many people and this university. Second, and more important, I hope that my story, or some small part of it, touched you and affected you in such a way that it’s no longer that you shouldn’t forget, but that you can’t forget.”

Also speaking were Marshall President Jerome Gilbert, Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, Head Football Coach Doc Holliday, SGA President Matt Jarvis, SGA Vice President Emily Kinner, and Executive Director of Alumni Relations Matt Hayes. The event, organized by the Marshall University Student Government Association, also includes an annual ceremony to turn off the Memorial Fountain for the winter.

Gilbert, who first attended the memorial ceremony last year after being named Marshall’s president, talked about his experience in getting to know the Marshall family and absorbing the enormity of the crash on that family and how the community remembers the event.

“It’s a sad day of memories, but we don’t shy away from the pain even though it may have diminished over the years,” Gilbert said. “We embrace the memory and the bittersweet feeling we have when we hear their names read and turn off this beautiful fountain.”

Holliday talked about paying tribute to the people who died in the crash not only by continuing the football program, but by paying tribute in other ways. During their victory over Middle Tennessee State Saturday, Marshall football players wore a “75” decal on one side of their helmets to commemorate the lives lost, and a vintage Marshall logo to pay tribute to the Young Thundering Herd, Marshall’s mostly freshmen and sophomore aged football team that played during the 1971 football season. The team also wore commemorative black jerseys for the game.

“It means more, because it is so much more than us,” Holliday said. “I was not at all surprised to see our football team play its best football game of the season, not only for the 75 brothers and sisters who died 46 years ago today, but also for every person who had to dry their tears and heal a broken heart on this day in 1970. We’ve grown so much as a university, as an athletic department and football program since then, but this day will always be the fabric of who we are. This is our history. This is our story.”

Hamrick, who was a member of Marshall’s 1971 Young Thundering Herd football team, said the event showed the grit of the Marshall family.

“Many people kept the faith and many people poured everything they had into resurrecting this program,” Hamrick said. “We don’t quit at Marshall. We persevere. We preserver in everything we do. That is why we are a great university.”

Student Body President Jarvis said that even though current Marshall students are nearly half a century removed from the crash, they have every intention of making sure the occasion is appropriately observed for years to come.

“We weren’t on this campus when this tragedy took place, but we choose to remember and honor it,” Jarvis said. “We didn’t get to experience these individuals and what they brought to this institution and community, but we choose to remember them and their values and the love they shared for Marshall and Huntington. Family members, loved ones and sons and daughters of Marshall alike, rest assured because we will always choose to remember.”

Marshall University plane crash

At 7:36 p.m. Nov. 14, 1970, Southern Airways Flight 932 crashed into a hill just short of the Tri-State Airport, killing all 75 people on board. The plane was carrying 37 members of the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team, eight members of the coaching staff, 25 boosters, and five flight crew members. The team was returning home after a 1714 loss to the East Carolina Pirates at Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina.


James Michael Adams

Mark Raeburn Andrews

Michael Francis Blake

Dennis Michael Blevins

Willie Bluford Jr.

Larry Brown

Thomas Wayne Brown

Roger Keith Childers

Stuart Spence Cottrell

Richard Lee Dardinger

David Grant DeBoard

Kevin Francis Gilmore

David Dearing Griffith Jr.

Arthur W. Harris

Robert Anthony Harris

Bobby Wayne Hill

Joe Lee Hood

James Thomas Howard Jr.

Marcelo H. Lajterman

Richard Adam Lech

Barry Winston Nash

Patrick Jay Norrell

James Robert Patterson

Scottie Lee Reese

John Anton Repasy Jr.

Larry Sanders

Charles Alan Saylor

Arthur Kirk Shannon

Lionel Ted Shoebridge

Allen Gene Skeens

Jerry Dodson Stainback

Robert James VanHorn

Roger Arnie Vanover

Freddie Clay Wilson

John Patton Young

Thomas Jonathan Zborill


Rickey D. Tolley

Herbert B. Brackett

Albert C. Carelli Jr.

Frank Loria

James M. Moss II


Charles E. Kautz

Eugene J. Morehouse

Brian R. O’Connor

Gary Wilson George

Jeffrey P. Nathan

James Joseph Schroer

Donald Tackett Jr.

Donald Booth


Charles Arnold

Rachel Arnold

Joseph Chambers

Peggy Chambers

Ray Hagley

Shirley Hagley

Arthur L. Harris

E.O. Heath

James Jarrell

Cynthia Jarrell

Cynthia Jarrell

Kenneth Jones

Michael Prestera

Glenn Preston

Phyllis Preston

Courtney Phillips Proctor

H.D. Proctor

Murrill Ralsten

Helen Ralsten

Parker Ward

Norman Weichmann

Crew of DC-9

Frank Abbott

Jerry R. Smith

Charlene Poat

Danny Deese

Patricia Vaught

 See a photo gallery from the event. 

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