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Sometimes The Good Die Young
Frank Deford
November 07, 1983
The Chiefs' Joe Delaney would have been 25 last week had he not given up his life attempting to save two drowning boys
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November 07, 1983

Sometimes The Good Die Young

The Chiefs' Joe Delaney would have been 25 last week had he not given up his life attempting to save two drowning boys

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Last Sunday, Oct. 30, Joe Delaney's team, the Kansas City Chiefs, played the Denver Broncos. And in Shreveport, down the road from Haughton, where Joe was reared, the Louisiana State Fair was in its last day. The signs said: IT'S YOUR FAIR—SO BE THERE, and for sure a goodly number of folks came out.

Had he lived, Delaney last Sunday would have celebrated his 25th birthday while playing against the Broncos. But on June 29, 1983 he died, a gentleman and a hero, in Monroe, at Chenault Park, around two in the afternoon.

There was a huge hole there, carved out of the earth some time ago. The hole had filled with water, and three boys waded in. They didn't know it, but a short way out the bottom dropped off precipitously, and suddenly the boys were in over their heads and thrashing and screaming. There were all sorts of people around, but only Joe dashed to the pond. There was a little boy there. "Can you swim?" he asked Joe.

"I can't swim good," Joe said, "but I've got to save those kids. If I don't come up, get somebody." And he rushed into the water.

One boy fought his way back to the shallow part. The other two didn't. Neither did Joe Delaney, 24. He was hauled out a few minutes later, dead. He gave his own life trying to save three others.

God rest his soul.

Shortly thereafter, back in Haughton, JoAnn Delaney woke up from a nap. She'd had a terrible pain come over her, so she had lain down; but now, miraculously, she felt whole again. Later she found out the pain had come as Joe had approached Chenault Park in his baby blue Cougar and had departed when he'd died.

JoAnn was Joe's twin.

When they were born in Henderson, Texas on Oct. 30, 1958, JoAnn's birth was uneventful, but Joe turned blue and almost died. He had some kind of bubble over his face, his mother, Eunice, says, which made it hard for him to start breathing. The midwife was familiar with this problem. She called it a "veil," and when the crisis had passed and the baby had filled his lungs with air, she told Eunice, "Any child born with the veil will die of drowning."

Lucille, one of Joe's five sisters—he had two brothers—says, "We were mighty glad when he learned to swim." But he was never more than a rudimentary swimmer; he was scared of water any deeper than his waist. It was amazing that he would rush in after those boys.

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