MONROE, La. – He was a two-time All-American football player and an NFL star, but for a Louisiana community, he was also a local hero.
On June 29, 1983, former Kansas City Chief’s running back Joe Delaney didn’t hesitate to jump into a pound to save three kids screaming for help, despite not being able to swim himself. Delaney and two of the kids drowned that day, but one survived, Nexstar sister station KARD-TV reported.
“He didn’t worry about himself, he just worried about making the people around him happy. That’s just the type of person joe was,” Carolyn Delaney, Joe’s wife, said.
His memory and sacrifice were honored Saturday, June 27 during a monument unveiling and dedication ceremony at Chennault Park by the pond where he lost his life.
“Right now, I am just so overwhelmed, I mean it just makes me feel so proud of Joe and the person he was. I just can’t explain how happy I am today,” Carolyn Delaney said.
The monument comes after former Monroe Police Department rescue diver, Marvin Dearman, told Monroe City Council there was never anything done at Chennault Park to remember Joe. The Chiefs won the Super Bowl on the 37th anniversary of Delaney’s death, and Delaney wore number 37 while playing for the Chiefs. Dearman said that makes this the perfect year to honor him.
“It was just like it was meant to be. This is a positive thing for everybody. Even though he died, he died a hero, and there is a story about him that will live on forever,” Dearman, who also organized the event, said.
Dearman said a lot of people from Monroe and Kansas City helped make this ceremony possible.
“Sometimes as a hero, it doesn’t always work out the way you plan it. He knew he couldn’t swim, but that didn’t matter to him. All he thought about was he was going to try to save those kids,” Dearman said.
Delaney’s wife said this was the first time being at the park where Joe took his last breath.
“We have a place where I can bring the kids and grandkids, great-grandkids down to see the monument that they put up to honor Joe in the last place where he tried to save some kid’s lives,” Carolyn Delaney said.
President Ronald Reagan recognized Joe Delaney by awarding him the Presidential Citizen’s Medal. Joe was also awarded the Louisiana State Civilian Bravery Award by Governor Dave Treen and the NCAA gave him the Award of Valor.