Preserving Herd History: The Marshall Football Memorial

Local News

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — The Marshall Memorial Fountain is the structure that comes to mind for most of us when we remember the plane crash of 1970. But there’s another sculpture marking the tragedy near campus which two Daughters of Marshall are now trying to save.

It was the summer of 1970. Vernon Howell was a grad student at Marshall University and began creating what is now known as the Marshall Football Memorial.

“I was still coaching football and other sports so, it was sports motivated,” said Howell, the artist that put together the Marshall Football Memorial.

However, that November, tragedy struck the Marshall community when the Marshall University Football Team was killed in a plane crash.

The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity lost five of their own in that plane crash, so they reached out to Howell.

“I lost dear friends, I mean, life-long friends in the crash,” said Howell. “And there was no hesitation to take it to them.”

The sculpture of a crouching football player sat at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house for almost half a decade with bricks honoring their five brothers.

Last month, Howell’s daughters, Jennifer Pierson, and Robin Howell, noticed the fraternity house was for sale and they immediately started a GoFundMe Page to restore the sculpture – that’s where Michael Sizemore comes in.

“The significance of the sculpture and the timeline associated with the crash, and with Vernon going to school here and being a football player,” said Sizemore, who owns the Mountain Artworks Studio in Athens, West Virginia. “It really kind of hit home for me.”

Prior to taking it down, Sizemore and his son secured the statue so it wouldn’t vibrate while they traveled back to Athens to their shop. The hope is to have the project completed by the 50th anniversary of the Marshall plane crash, which is next November.

Now, Jennifer and Robin hope the community will come together to help pay for the costs and look forward to working with the university to find a new home for this piece of history so future generations remember how the Herd rose up from the crash while honoring the fallen Sons and Daughters of Marshall.

“The minimum donation is $5 dollars, and if that’s all you can give, that’s awesome, because every dollar helps,” said Jennifer.

“Any extra donations, we’re going to contribute that to a Marshall organization,” said Robin.

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