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“Tragedy into triumph”: proceeds from The Who concert will have a lasting impact

The Who PEM Memorial.png
Posted at 11:48 AM, May 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-15 21:03:33-04

CINCINNATI — The Who will return to Cincinnati for a historic night at TQL stadium. The band has not performed in the city since 11 people were killed outside the venue before the band performed in Cincinnati in 1979.

For many, it is a chance to reflect and remember the victims.

Jackie Eckerle was just 15 years-old when she was set to see The Who live in Cincinnati in 1979.

“She loved The Who,” said her classmate Mary Anne Medlock. “I just remember that morning. We were all hanging out in the bathroom. Everybody was super excited about the show that night.”

Eckerle never made it to the show. She was one of the 11 victims who lost their lives outside the venue before the show began.

“We want to remember our friends in the fondest light that we can,” said Eckerle’s classmate Fred Wittenbaum. “But we also wanted to pay it forward.”

That’s what Wittenbaum and Medlock are doing as part of the P.E.M. Memorial: an organization started by Finneytown High School alumni John Hutchins and Steve Bentz. Walt Medlock and Toni Hutchins are also on the committee.

It is called P.E.M. to honor three of the victims from 1979 who attended Finneytown High School: Stephan Preston, Jackie Eckerle, and Karen Morrison.

Since 2010, the organization has used its scholarship fund to award three scholarships to Finneytown High School seniors pursuing higher education in the arts.

“It’s been a healing process for us as well,” Mary Anne said. “Our hope was that it would be a healing for The Who somehow.”

“They greatly support what we do and how we do it,” Wittenbaum said.

The group met The Who co-founder Roger Daltrey a few years ago when he traveled to Finneytown.

Bentz said he thinks everyone on the committee is excited that The Who will return to Cincinnati.

“It was a reality moment,” he said. “It hit me last night, when we're watching the news and it's like, ‘this is really happening.’”

Proceeds from the show will go to the committee to fund 11 college scholarships, one for each of the victims.

“Like any good love story, it starts with tragedy,” John Hutchins said. “Really what our mission has been, as we've come together, is to not allow tragedy to be the final chapter. You know, go from tragedy into triumph.”

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