Ralph R. Zobell | Posted: 14 Oct 2015 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

50th reunion of 1965 championship and Point of the Mountain plane crash

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This story was originally published in the BYU-East Carolina football game program on October 10, 2015.

If thousands of cubic yards of dirt vanished opposite Interstate 15 like we’ve seen at the Point of the Mountain, then the airline crash 50 years ago may not have happened.

This past week, many gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of two events from that 1965 weekend. There could be lots of if’s and and’s from that weekend of a triumph marred by a tragedy.

In the early morning of November 26, 1965, on the West side of the Jordan River, 13 persons were killed. Seven of those who died were prominent BYU boosters bound for Albuquerque, N.M., to cheer BYU’s football team on to its eventual Western Athletic Conference title.

Among those boosters were BYU alums Dr. J. Bernard Critchfield (BYU `48), Dr. Gordon Lewis (’49), Dr. Roger W. Parkinson (’51), James Peterson (’54), Dr. Marion Probert (’55) and Richard Wilkins (’54).

Probert starred for BYU’s football team and knew the significance of possibly beating New Mexico in 1965 after he saw a 1-2-1 record against the Lobos in 1951-54. Probert’s jersey No. 81 is retired and he was inducted into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1977.

In 1965, the 28-passenger DC-3 flight skimmed below the low clouds at the Point of the Mountain, unaware of the 5,000-foot-plus hills below it soon slammed into after taking off around 7 a.m. from Salt Lake City.

“We found out that if the plane had been just a few feet higher, it would have not crashed.” said Jennifer Jackson, daughter of one of the victims, the late Gordon Lewis. “I think it was eight feet.

“About three to four years ago, we got the coordinates from the FAA (Senator Orrin Hatch was very helpful) and drove with Major Mercer from the National Guard station at Point of the Mountain and then hiked to the crash site. Mom (Richine Allred) even made it with the help of two grandsons that practically carried her between them. We planted a tree and left a marker with all our signatures and messages to dad.”

David O. Parkinson, a Salt Lake attorney and son of the late Roger W. Parkinson, hiked as a 15-year-old teenager to the charred site of the crash in 1965 in an effort to understand more about that fatal day.

“I went up there not too long after the accident,” David Parkinson said. “The small stuff of the wreckage was still there.”

When investigators originally searched for remains, among the items they found at the crash sight near the rifle range at Camp Williams was a live bazooka shell, a watch that was still ticking hours after the impact and an unwritten Christmas card.

Today fans can view two identical bronze plaques, one on the west side of LaVell Edwards Stadium and the other inside the Smith Fieldhouse, memorialize the seven Cougar boosters who passed away that day.

There were a couple near misses for people who planned to board that flight, kind of like the stuff that would make a movie script.

The pilot who flew that DC-3 plane the day before from California back to Salt Lake City got a call at 6 a.m. on the morning of the crash and was asked to sub for a sick pilot. Stewardess Norma Jenkins was on loan from Frontier Airlines. Susie Odle had planned to be on the flight with other player wives to watch her husband Phil.

Among the 20 would-be passengers waiting to board the DC-3 flight with a 28-passenger capacity in Provo were Dave Ahlander; Roy Bachelor; Denzel Brown; Philip V. Christensen; Frank Gardner; Dr. and Mrs. Roy Humphries; Grant Jacobsen; Ron Hyde; Willard Nelson; Dan Nielsen; LeRoy and Ralph Olsen and Ralph Olsen, Jr.; Burt Olson; Paul Ream; the late Milt Sharp; Archie Stone; Dr. Jack Trunnell and the late BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson.

“I had the people at the Provo airport see if they could make contact,” recalls Hyde, then executive director of the newly formed Cougar Club. “We were all standing outside. They called their office (Edde Airlines) and they knew nothing of the problem and they began searching. Edde Airlines called us back and told us what happened.”

Brother Bill Edde, the youngest of the three brothers, got in a plane to retrace the route and was the first to spot the charred hillside at the Point of the Mountain.

“I remained in Provo at President Wilkinson’s request to inform the relatives of those who had been killed,” said Hyde. President Wilkinson chartered a smaller plane at the Provo airport and flew to Albuquerque. His son Dr. Ernest L. Wilkinson, Jr., had cancelled his reservation the day before to board the fatal flight in Salt Lake City.

Another who was scheduled to board that flight is Claudia Peacock Ohlmann, then a stewardess for Edde Airlines. Ohlmann currently resides in Orem and at one time was married to Joe Edde, one of the three brothers who owned the small Utah-based fleet of two DC-3’s, two Constellations and one Martin plane.

“Diane Edde asked me the day before the crash when we were all in California, if I would mind trading my stewardess shift with her the next day,” Ohlmann said. Claudia remained in California with Joe Edde and they heard of the crash on the radio the next day.

Facts about the fatal flight were misconstrued. Radio announcer Paul James was in his first year as BYU’s broadcaster, having served the previous year in that role at the University of Utah. He had flown to Albuquerque with the team the day before the crash.

James’ son Steve had flown with a Little League football team to California days earlier on the same Edde Airlines airplane that eventually crashed. When James’ wife Annette heard that an Edde Airlines flight bound for Albuquerque had crashed, her first thought was that husband Paul was on the ill-fated flight.

The Cougar football team flew from Salt Lake City to Albuquerque also on Friday, but didn’t learn of the fatal crash involving the boosters until pregame breakfast. The Cougars rallied and led the Lobos 14-0 at halftime. BYU scored 14 more points in both the third and fourth quarters to defeat New Mexico 42-8 on November 27, 1965.

This was the first football championship ever for BYU and the start of 19 Western Athletic Conference titles in the 36 years competing in that league. As WAC champions under the late coach Tommy Hudspeth, the Cougars tallied a 4-1 league record after beating Arizona State, Utah, Arizona and UNM, while losing at Wyoming.

Members of that 1965 BYU team, including some of the seven U.S. Marines, gathered this weekend to celebrate the first WAC title.

Those seven Marines gave BYU and former Air Force 1st Lieutenant Hudspeth a needed boost for the 1965 season. Those former Marines were the late Dick Banky, Casey Boyett, the late Paul Ehrmann, Max Newberry, the late Phil Odle, Perry Rodrigue and Barney Williams.

Odle, along with quarterback Virgil Carter, and fullback John Ogden earned All-WAC first-team honors that season.

“They (the BYU band) played the Marine Hymn (from the Halls of Montezuma…) when the team would run out on the field,” David Parkinson said. “My Dad really loved BYU and those were great years. “President Wilkinson used to do pushups on the floor at halftime. We are original donors to stadium and still renew our tickets.”

BYU had been the preseason pick for the cellar by the WAC media, but the standings flip-flopped from previous years and the Cougars ended up as champions.

The fledgling WAC had one bowl appearance, the Liberty Bowl where Utah won in 1964 at New Jersey over West Virginia.  Utah’s radio announcer at the time was Paul James, wasn’t allowed to travel to that bowl, but had to rebroadcast the Ute  game for KDYL radio while watching the TV broadcast of that win.

New Mexico had won or shared all three WAC titles since the league’s beginning and could have tied four a fourth title if it had beaten the Cougars and had Arizona not lost to Arizona State, 14-6 that weekend.

The late BYU sports information director Dave Schulthess called the date of November 27, 1965 as “a special date, which might be called a historical turning point. BYU came on to win the championship the hard way—by winning three of four conference games on the road.”

The parents of junior running backs John and Steve Ogden rolled out the “red” carpet for a boxcar of Cougar fans to ride the train from Tarzana (near Hollywood), California, to attend the final game in Albuquerque as part of the crowd of 14,289.

BYU amassed a 28-0 lead through the first three quarters at New Mexico. Odle caught 10 passes, two for touchdowns and 137 of Carter’s passing 309 yards. Two more of Carter’s 23 completed passes went for TD’s via Steve Ogden and Dennis Palmer. John Ogden had two TD’s rushing and his brother accounted for another on the ground.

The Cougar defense led by linebacker Sid Frazier, who tallied 14 assisted tackles and four interceptions by teammates Bob Ashdown, Terry Colson, Curg Belcher and Bobby Roberts.  Assistant coach LaVell Edwards was in charge of the defensive line.

Assistant coach LaVell Edwards was in charge of the defensive line. BYU limited UNM senior quarterback Stan Quintana, who was the WAC Back of the Year in 1964, to 16 yards rushing and 51 yards passing.

“I impersonated Quintana on the scout team the week before,” said the shifty Boyett, who redshirted along with Rodrigue during the 1965 season.

“President Wilkinson had the spouses and children of the survivors in his home  and the kids on his exercise bike in his bedroom several weeks later,” Hyde said of the weeks following that league title was won. “Flags flew at half mast until the last funeral.”

Lest we forget, sands of time and gravel from the Point of the Mountain have vanished as we remember that 1965 season and those who helped found championship success.

Killed in Plane Crash

Name

Age

Occupation

Where Buried

Spouse

* J. Bernard Critchfield

42

Physician

Salt Lake City

Beverly Ruoff

* Antoine Dalton

35

Surgeon

Parowan

Jean Bertoch

Dianne Edde

17

(daughter of pilot)

Grantsville

None

* Garth Edde

45

Pilot

Grantsville

Virginia Dymock #^

Theodore R. Gledhill

44

Business owner

Salt Lake City

RaNae Naegle #^

*Calvin Higgs

41

Pilot

Salt Lake City

Grace Brinkerhoff

Norma Jenkins

23

Stewardess

DeLeon, Texas

None

* Gordon Lewis

39

Dentist

Provo

Richine Allred #

* Kenneth Myers

43

Pilot

Paris, Idaho

Elna Rogers ^

* Roger Parkinson

37

Physician

Sandy

Jean Romney #

*James Peterson

40

Restaurant owner

Salt Lake City

Betty Wyss

Marion Probert

32

Surgeon

Salt Lake City

Beverly Robinson ^

*Richard Wilkins

38

Attorney

Springville

Dorothy Steele #

*veteran, #remarried ^deceased

Marines who played for BYU football

Name

Pos.

Military Rank

From/Now

Years at BYU

Dick Banky

DT

Lance Corporal

Elk Grove, IL/ Nebo, NC^

1965-67

Casey Boyett

WB

Lance Corporal

Jena, LA/ Kamuela, HI

1966-68

Paul Ehrmann

OG

Lance Corporal

Hayward, CA/Westminster,CO^

1965-66

Max Newberry

OT

Corporal

Napa, CA/Clovis, CA

1965-67

Phil Odle

SE

Corporal

Elgin, IL/Orem, UT ^

1965-67

Perry Rodrigue

FB

Sergeant

Thibodaux, LA/ Thibodaux, LA

1966-67

Barney B. Williams

QB

Corporal

Dallas/ Oklahoma City

1965

Bob Cain

DB

 

Paris, TX

Did not stay

^ deceased

Recap of the 50th Reunion for the 1965 Football Champions

Last Friday evening members of BYU’s first-ever league football championship team from 1965 gathered at LaVell Edwards Stadium for a 50th reunion.

The group also was honored by lighting the Y prior to BYU’s 45-38 victory over East Carolina.

Among those who spoke at the reunion were Ruth Ann Hudspeth, widow of the late head coach Tommy Hudspeth, and LaVell Edwards, who was the defensive line coach for the 1965 team.

“Tonight has reinforced that relationships are important,” Edwards told the reunion group.  “What a special experience it was and to see what happened to you from there is tremendous. I’m much more impressed now seeing what you have done with your lives.”

Edwards joined emcee Glen Gardner, a tackle from the team, in presenting a BYU letterman’s jacket to LaVern Swanson, a tailback from the 1965 era.  Swanson partially blocked a kick from Wyoming All-American Jerry DePoyster in Provo, but he had never been presented a letter as promised for that effort.  Swanson, who now lives in nearby Springville, also wrote a 200-page book commemorating the 1965 championship, entitled “A Season to Remember.”

Among the dozen players who have passed away from the 1965 team was Phil Odle. Odle was discharged three months early from the Marines and went on to become the Western Athletic Conference Lineman of the Year in 1965.  Odle’s widow, Susie, spoke to the group about her late husband who won the Dale Rex Award, and she received a standing ovation like Edwards.

Pastor Jerry Cook, an offensive guard on the 1965 team who now lives in the Bay Area of California, offered the invocation for the reunion banquet.  Members of the 1965 team traveled great distances to attend the reunion during Homecoming week.

Bettye Fabris, widow of BYU assistant coach Frank Fabris, traveled from Georgia for the event. Steve Probert, son of one of the seven plane crash victims, traveled from Oregon and spoke to the reunion group. Perry Rodrigue, a tailback and one of the seven Marines on the 1965 team, traveled from his native Louisiana.

Grant Wilson, an offensive guard from 1965 and chairman of the reunion, reminded the group in closing of Coach Hudspeth’s motto, “Regardless of how good we are, we will always hit and hustle.”

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