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Wichita State crash: Randy Kiesau remembered

Gary Baumwart sent me an email this week I thought was worth sharing. Last Friday, I wrote about the 50-year anniversary of the Wichita State football plane crash that claimed 31 lives in the mountains of Colorado.

I wrote about Rusty Featherstone, an Oklahoman who played on that 1970 Wichita State team and who has made a commitment to never forget the four Oklahomans killed in that crash: Duncan’s Don Christian, John Marshall’s Johnny Duren, Clinton’s Randy Kiesau and Putnam City’s Tom Shedden.

I received great feedback on the Wichita State story.

I wrote quite a bit about Duren, who was a great friend of Featherstone, and Christian, who was a great friend of Dave Lewis, who I also interviewed.

But I didn’t have as much on Kiesau and Shedden. And Baumwart filled in some of the gaps on Kiesau. Here’s what he wrote:

“This is a football story from the past. I am not much into writing. Short and sweet.

“I was on my way to the office to do some office paperwork and decided to write this story. I was going west on old 66 to El Reno, and a car was going the wrong way and heading my way. I slowed down and let the driver go on. I told her, ‘You are going the wrong way!’ I sure was glad I was not meeting her on top of the hill.

“This was about 5:30. This is when I decided to write this story about one of my closest friends. Randy Burt Kiesau.

“Yesterday, you wrote an article on the Wichita State plane crash that killed 31 people. This sent me back to the tragic day, 50 years ago, when Randy was killed. He said that he would die young and would be a plane crash. That day, I cried. I knew almost every one of those killed.

“Randy and I played football at Clinton High School. Clinton has been known to play a little competitive football, especially during Randy’s heydays. Remembering and honoring Randy will refresh the great memories (precious memories) we shared together.

“We started out together in fifth grade at Washington in Clinton. He was very competitive. His dad and mom ran the family business, the Kiesau Funeral home there in Clinton. Randy and I played all sports: football, basketball, softball and track.

“He was of one fastest runners in high school. He gave Roy Bell a good race. Sometimes Randy was known to have a little attitude.

“Interesting story: Randy and I decided to quit football in junior high. Naturally, I went along with it and we quit. That did not go very well with Randy’s dad, Vern. Later on, Vern became the president of the Quarterback Club for 1967-68 season. So the coach let us back on the team, fortunate for me, because he was a whole lot better player than me. The what-if comes back to bite me on that. However, Randy truly loved his high school football days. He did it for the love of the game.

“The dynasty of Clinton football championships began in the middle ‘60s. Clinton won the first championship in 1965. Runner-up in 1966. National champions in 1967. First team to go undefeated at Clinton in 1967.

“Randy was the third running back for Clinton. The backfield included Roy Bell, James Williams and Randy. Randy was the player that kept Clinton’s season undefeated with a 40-yard fake punt against Hobart. Out of that championship team there was maybe 10 players to receive major football scholarships. Amazing!

“Randy received a full scholarship to play for Wichita State in 1968. The spring of 1969, I would go up to Wichita to watch spring football practice ... I would room with Randy. I would go to class, film room, and watched weekly practices. I got to meet all the coaches and players.

“Each year at Clinton’s football banquet, the Kiesau Award is given to the player who contributes the most to the team both with his play and leadership. Randy’s No. 22 is retired, and the Kiesau Award was created in 1970. I have many more pictures and stories from his 20 short years. I miss him.

“His parents , Vern and Zerita Kiesau have passed. Miss them all. On his gravesite, it says ‘To know him is to love him.’”

Great stuff, Gary. Anniversary dates cause us to reflect. Landmark anniversaries give us all a new perspective. Ten years on a job. Twenty years married. Thirty-year high school reunions.

But 50-year anniversaries are particularly impactful. They signal that we’ve lived a long life. To have lived 50 years without a great friend is quite sobering. Thanks, Gary, for giving us a little more light on Randy Kiesau.

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Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›