The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

AUGUST  2003

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







A Hero Remembered
by Jerry Keys

As we grow up we always have heroes.  I looked to Magic Johnson in basketball and Kirby Puckett in baseball.  But as with all heroes, they eventually prove mortal.

Magic was diagnosed with AIDS in 1991 and after revealing his private life, a hero had fallen.  Kirby was proven human earlier this year in the much publicized divorce and his eccentric behavior.  We are told not to have heroes or role models.  But it is a part of the culture that is as American as "budget defects."

It has always been said that your parents should be your role model.  That is a very true statement and very understandable to a 28 y/o.  Although an 8 y/o will always say that his dad cannot hit a 92 mph breaking curveball.
I had favorites in the NFL.  I always liked the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dan Fouts and Walter Payton.  But the hero status belonged to a Louisiana native.  His name was Joe Delaney.

He burst on the NFL circuit in 1981 for the morbid Kansas City Chiefs.  In addition to rumbling for 1121 yards in 234 attempts (nearly 5 yards per carry), he was named  Rookie of the Year  and earned a Pro Bowl berth.

Jerry Keys

The strike shortened 1982 season was not kind to Joe but a new contract and a new optimism was founded for the upcoming 1983 season.

On June 29, 1983 Joe was resting at Chennault Park.  It was one of those old fashion blistering hot summer days.  He heard voices crying out for help.  Without thinking, Joe bolted to where the voices were coming from.

There were three children who were beginning to drown, brothers Harry and LeMarkits Holland, and their cousin Lancer Perkins.  Out of the hundreds of people at

the park, only Joe dove in to help.  The typical bemoth playing hero dashing in to save the day?  Not hardly.  Joe did not know how to swim.  In fact, he was not fond of water at all.

LeMarkits later stated that he felt the water filling his lungs right before a monstrous hand grabbed him by the shoulder and heaved him from the deep end like a Barbie doll.  Joe dove in further to rescue the other two.  Both boys drown as did Joe.

The water hole was shallow for the first four feet into it but then sharply dropped off to about 20 feet.

What still to this day brings chills down my spine is that Joe knew he could not swim.  He knew that if he ventured too far out into the water, he may not return.  Joe knew that not only his promising NFL career but his life may be taken.  Those thoughts had to have crossed his mind while in the act of

attempting to rescue the three boys, none of which he knew. But without  regard for himself, he risked his life to save total strangers.

You had to know Joe.  Even after his star studded rookie season, he still mowed that lonely woman's yard when he was back at his hometown of Haughton, Louisiana.  He would stop in and check on an elderly man whenever in town.  It was no surprise when he showed up on the town's street corner with bags full of new shoes and clothes for children he did not
even know.

Now thirty years old, LeMarkits just recently got out of jail after serving time for cocaine distribution.  It haunts him to this day that he survived and Harry didn't.  There is still time left for LeMarkits to do something with his life, the life

that Joe gave him back at the cost of his.

Joe was buried on July 4, 1983 as over three thousand people showed up.  Joe left behind a wife, Carolyn, and three children.  A park in Haughton is named after him and no other Chief has worn his number 37 jersey.  There is
a 37 Forever Foundation that honors him to this day by offering free swimming lessons to inner-city children.

I still have his Topps football cards on my dresser at home.  They have been there for 20 years and will be there for another 20.

Carolyn stated that she had been on two dates in the twenty years since Joe died.  "Why should I?  I just keep comparing them to Joe, and they can't stand up.  Nobody in the world is like my Joe."

Well said Carolyn.