GREAT FALLS -- Friday was a night to celebrate.
Celebrate the game of football at Memorial Stadium.
A night to celebrate the 1969 Class AA state champion Bison football team.
And a night to celebrate that team's quarterback - the late Jay Baumberger.
“I just can't believe it,” said Jay’s widow Debra Baumberger through tears. “I mean, this is just incredible, I can’t believe they’re doing this for Jay and they planned it on the night of their reunion.”
Baumberger was the driving force behind the championship team. He was an eager red-headed quarterback, a high school all-American, and a great teammate.
“It was in his blood, “ said his former high school and college teammate Steve Taylor. “I mean, to be the quarterback and to do the things that he did, he was a great passing quarterback and just wow. The offensive numbers were phenomenal."
But most of all, Jay was an advocate for Great Falls High school who gave countless hours and financial support to its facilities and programs.
“He would come to the field unsolicited to cut weeds and water the grass,” Debra said. “His mom Joyce would be out here with him, sweeping, picking up trash, doing whatever they could. They wanted Great Falls High to shine. It is the most beautiful school in the state by no comparison, there's nothing close.”
One of Jay’s final goals before he passed was to install a digital readerboard at Great Falls High to showcase the accomplishments of its students and athletes. Sadly, Jay didn’t live to see his dream was fulfilled. But his memory lives on the readerboard - thanks to a plaque that celebrates Jay Baumberger, a “True Bison.”
“He loved this school more than anything. And you know, that's why I'm so proud,” Debra said. “I'm so proud that this happened and I'm so proud of this dedication and I'm so thankful that the people were able to come today.”
Several former high school teammates were on hand to help honor Jay. They held a ceremony at the reader board pre-game and were recognized on the field during halftime.
“Well, it was really cool when we got the call from Fausto Turin, one of our teammates and said that his friend Don Ryan was going to do this dedication for Jay,” Taylor said. “And so it was really quick. We had to get ahold of people quickly to do it. And all the ones that were here in this area, every one of them said, ‘yeah, I'll be there’. It was just so neat. And they wanted to be here for Jay.”