Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Notre Dame Legend | by Pat

A few months ago my father was going through a few of my late grandfather's books and papers that were stored in the basement of my parents' house. Flipping through the documents, he stopped on a small card. He quickly realized was an old funeral prayer card, and, turning it over, saw that it was dedicated in the memory of one Knute K. Rockne. My grandfather, a sophomore at ND in the spring of 1931, had either attended Rockne's funeral or a memorial service on campus, collected the prayer card, and at some point quietly tucked it away where it sat, forgotten, for at least a few decades.

I suspect my family is like many other Notre Dame families. The tragic and sudden death of Knute Rockne is something usually remembered only occasionally; on fall trips to campus and Knute's grave, on the March 31st anniversary of the fatal crash itself, and those rare moments when you stumble across a long forgotten piece of memorabilia.

For one man though, remembrances of the plane crash and death of Notre Dame's greatest coach have been far more frequent. Easter Heathman, one of the first to arrive on the crash scene as a 13 year old boy, lived his whole live near the crash site and has served as the unofficial official caretaker and tour guide of the memorial honoring the life and death of Rockne and the seven other members of doomed Transcontinental and Western Air Express Flight 599.

Easter passed away this week at the age of 90. Although having no previous connection to ND, Easter spent most of his life serving and assisting the hundreds of Irish football fans who over the years made their way to the Flint Hills region of Kansas in search of the hard-to-find memorial. And in doing so, Easter has himself become an integral part of the Notre Dame story. His stewardship should never be forgotten.

We'll leave you with a short video that shows just the kind of selfless and humble man that Easter was. Rest in peace, Mr. Heathman.