HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — 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 14th falls on a Saturday.
Because Marshall plays a home football game that starts at 3:30 p.m. that day, the service will begin at 10 a.m., rather than the traditional starting time of noon, according to Duncan Waugaman, SGA president.
Most importantly, 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 Memorial Student plaza 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, Ky., 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. Nov. 14.
“Heaven’s HERD. We will never forget,” Stephen Ward said.