On a chilly autumn day in 1966, Ben Hale stood at midfield in Fairfield Stadium attempting to plant a kiss on his dream girl, who had just been crowned “Miss Marshall” before a huge homecoming crowd. But, “she pulled away, saying I would mess up her make-up,” Hale, who was her escort onto the field, recently reminisced.
The kiss on the field may have gone awry, but luckily their relationship didn’t, because today the couple are Mr. and Mrs. Ben Hale – she’s the former Jan Jenkins – and they have been married for 46 years with two daughters and three grandsons. And on Saturday, Oct. 5, they’re returning to Huntington to serve as grand marshals of the 2013 Marshall University homecoming parade.
The parade begins at 10 a.m. in downtown Huntington on 4th Avenue in front of the Cabell County Courthouse. It continues east to 12th Street where it turns right, then travels one block over to 5th Avenue. It then turns left on 5th and continues to Joan C. Edwards Stadium at 20th Street.
Marshall plays its homecoming football game at the stadium at 2 p.m., taking on the University of Texas at San Antonio.
The couple is thrilled to serve as grand marshals, because, according to Ben Hale, “We had the time of our lives at Marshall.” The Huntington natives met in the ninth grade when Jan Hale, who attended West Junior High School, was invited to dances at Cammack Junior High, which Ben Hale attended.
Growing up in Huntington, Ben Hale, now a senior partner at Smith and Hale LLC in Columbus, Ohio, spent a freshman semester at another college before joining Jan at Marshall, where she was an art education major. He quickly became the quintessential “Big Man on Campus,” excelling academically, athletically and socially. He graduated at the top of his class with a B.B.A. in Management, ran track, played football and was an active participant in Greek life as a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
Jan Hale recalls her days at Marshall as a happy whirl of activities. “I hardly had time to study, I was having so much fun,” she said with a laugh. “Since I was a ‘townie,’ so many of my friends were at Marshall as well. We still keep in touch, go to the beach together and have reunions.”
Both Hales are always eager to get back to their Huntington roots. Ben Hale makes a concerted effort to stay connected to many former high school and Marshall classmates who remain close friends.
“We’re looking forward to reuniting with old friends and family members during the upcoming homecoming festivities,” Jan Hale says.
Jan Hale was a popular figure on campus as well, taking part in numerous activities. Before she was elected “Miss Marshall,” the PKAs named her their “Dream Girl.” Ben Hale and his fraternity brothers built the float on which Miss Marshall 1966 and her court rode, which was bannered with the slogan, “PKA’s Dream Girl.” The only thing that marred that perfect day for the Hales was Marshall’s 35-15 loss to the University of Louisville.
The couple married in August 1967, shortly after they graduated, and headed for Columbus, Ohio, where Ben Hale had been accepted into The Ohio State University Law School. He joined Smith and Hale right after graduation in 1970 and has remained with the firm since that time. Jan Hale taught art in area schools for several years. Today the couple lives in New Albany, Ohio, close to their daughters and grandsons.
To date the homecoming parade has approximately 50 units signed up, but there will be more coming, according to Jordan Wooldridge, chief of staff for the Marshall University Student Government Association and one of the parade organizers. Along with marching bands, Marshall fraternities, sororities and other organizations, local businesses and groups such as Little Victories, there will be appearances by Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp and the current Miss West Virginia, Miranda Harrison, a Marshall student.
“We are still accepting applications for anyone who wants to be in the parade,” Wooldridge said. “We want to have as many groups as possible participate, so we’re encouraging groups to apply.”
Applications can be found online at www.marshall.edu/sga.