Monday marks the anniversary of one of the most neglected heroes of American sports. This weekend, family and friends unveiled a monument to Joe Delaney near the place where he drowned.
For several years, we have commemorated Delaney’s death on the anniversary of her death. Every year, people learn for the first time the story of a young man with his NFL career and his entire life before him as he tries to save three children who are drowning. This year marks the 37th anniversary of the man wearing the number 37.
Through KNOE-TV, a monument to Delaney is now located in Chennault Park in Monroe, Louisiana, near the pond where Delaney drowned.
“He jumped into that pond to save some children who were drowning, and he knew he couldn’t swim, but that didn’t matter to him. All I thought was that I was going to try to save those children, “said Marvin Dearman, a rescue diver with the Monroe Police Department at the time the tragedy occurred.
Delaney saved one of the children. Two of them drowned along with Delaney.
“Joe was a person who would give you the shirt behind your back,” said his widow, Carolyn. “She was a good-hearted person. He was also helping people, and he didn’t care about Joe himself. He was only concerned with making the people around him happy. ”
Prior to Saturday’s event, surviving family members of Carolyn Delaney and Joe had not visited the site of her death. The monument gives them reasons to return repeatedly.
“We can go back and we have a place where I can take the kids, the grown-ups and the great-greats to see the memorial in honor of Joe,” he said.
The monument should be a reminder to anyone else to see it for the next 37 years.
“He died a hero, and there is a story about him that will live forever,” Dearman said.
It is a story that we will tell every June 29 while the lights are on. And it is a story that every year many people will hear for the first time.