Family circle extends beyond OSU
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Feb 1, 2001
1/18/11 at 11:45 AM
STILLWATER -- Former Oklahoma State basketball player Bob Mattick was overcome by emotion Wednesday after watching his university pay tribute to 10 men who died in a plane crash.
Fighting back tears, Mattick said, "Now you know why I went to Oklahoma State."
Gov. Frank Keating and OSU President James Halligan were among those offering words of comfort Tuesday afternoon, when OSU staged a memorial service at Gallagher-Iba Arena in honor of the crash victims and their survivors.
Counselors wearing purple arm bands were stationed throughout the arena in case mourners needed assistance.
Large framed photographs of the deceased -- Kendall Durfey, Bjorn Fahlstrom, Nate Fleming, Will Hancock, Daniel Lawson, Brian Luinstra, Denver Mills, Pat Noyes, Bill Teegins and Jared Weiberg -- were placed in front of the stage, on which speakers took turns offering remembrance and support.
Personal belongings were placed below some of the pictures by family members.
The memorial service came on what would have been the 56th birthday of Mills, pilot of the doomed plane.
On this day, Gallagher-Iba Arena -- normally the joyous site of cheers -- was awash in tears.
"This is one of the greatest assemblies of caring people in the 110-year history of Oklahoma State University," said Halligan.
"We are trying to encircle you with our love to show you that we care, to show you these people made a big difference to us at OSU."
Keating offered open arms, prayers and love to the families of 10 people he referred to as "champions."
"Earlier this month, this wonderful arena was rededicated by the students and the faculty and the fans of Oklahoma State University and by our fellow citizens of Oklahoma," he said.
"At that dedication, we were reminded of its history. Gallagher-Iba Arena and OSU had been home to more national champions than any other campus in America.
"Today we add 10 more champions to that long and storied list."
OSU Vice President Harry Birdwell, who offered the day's opening prayer, challenged those in attendance to do something tangible for the victims' families rather than mourn passively.
Halligan asked that people remember the 10 victims every time they enter the arena.
"Let us resolve that we shall never forget them," he said.
"Every time we approach this building, we shall recall them and what they did for us."
Halligan said the saddest thing he has ever done is talk with family members of the victims. But he was also impressed that every family said the one they lost had a passion for what he did in life.
If there is consolation, it is that they died doing the things they loved for the university they called home," said Keating.
"If there can be comfort, accept it from your Oklahoma neighbors who know all too well what it means to grieve together. We won't remember the game or the score they played on Saturday, and it really doesn't matter.
"Champions are champions -- and not because of wins and losses but because of how they lived. Our 10 new champions lived well. As they left us, they handed us a lesson. Our greatest tribute isn't flowers or hymns or lowered flags. It is in following their example of a life well-lived."
Friends, relatives, members of the OSU family and officials from other universities and the Big 12 crowded into Gallagher-Iba for the service.
Among those in attendance were Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg, Jared Weiberg's uncle; former Gov. Henry Bellmon; Kansas coach Roy Williams; KU Athletic Director Bob Frederick; University of Tulsa Athletic Director Judy MacLeod; Oral Roberts University Athletic Director Mike Carter; University of Oklahoma President David Boren; OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione; and past and present OU football coaches Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops.
"I thought it was a beautiful service," said Boren.
"It really highlighted how we are a family here in Oklahoma. We love each other and care for each other. It just makes you realize that you should treasure each moment and each friendship."
Situations like the plane crash make it easy to put university rivalries aside, he said.
Added Boren, "At a moment like this, we're just honored to feel part of the same family with our brothers and sisters here at OSU."
Andre Williams, one of the surviving members of the basketball team, spoke briefly at the memorial service.
He apologized to victims' parents for meeting under such tragic circumstances and gave thanks to those who have offered support.
Williams also read a poem titled "I'm Free," which he said was recited at the recent funeral of a relative, Charles Nathaniel Wilson.
Jimmie Tramel, World sports writer, can be reached at 581-8389 or via e-mail at
Rick Allen places photos near a portrait of Brian Luinstra during Wednesday's memorial service. Luinstra, the father of two, was a trainer for the OSU basketball team.
OSU head basketball coach Eddie Sutton speaks during Wednesday's memorial service. "We will get through this and be better people," Sutton said during his address. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World