Carolyn Delaney has waited 33 years for a park to honor her late husband.
So she’s thrilled about Haughton’s newly opened Joe Delaney Park.
“I’m just so proud that this park is here now,” Carolyn Delaney says.
It’s more than deserving for Joe Delaney, an area legend.
He was a football standout at Haughton High School and Northwestern State before becoming the AFC Rookie of the Year in 1981 as a Kansas City Chief.
But, it’s what Joe Delaney did off the field that drove his hometown of Haugton to build the park.
In the summer of 1983, he was spending some time at home in North Louisiana.
On June 29th, he decided to go Chennault Park in Monroe for a community event.
“He called me and told me he was going down to Monroe for the big event at the park,” Carolyn Delaney says. “And I didn’t hear back from him anymore.”
While Joe Delaney was at Chennault Park, word spread that three boys were drowning.
He jumped in to save the boys.
But, he couldn’t swim.
“That was the worst day of my life,” Carolyn Delaney says.
At 24-years old, with a life of successes ahead of him, Joe Delaney died, leaving behind Carolyn and three daughters.
“It’s something that never leaves my mind,” Marvin Dearman, former member of the Monroe Police Department said. “I think about that event just about every day of my life.”
Dearman served a number of roles in his 22 years with the department. Among them was Head of the Police Dive Team.
He pulled Joe Delaney’s body out of the water that day, along with two of the boys who also died.
“I was a certified dive rescue specialist,” Dearman said. “We probably ought to rename that from rescue specialist to recovery. Because that’s basically all we did was recover people who had already drowned.”
He didn’t realize the significance of the situation until he got to the hospital, where a nurse had Joe Delaney’s wallet.
“She came back and handed me his driver’s liscence and said do you know who this is?” Dearman said. “I said no and she said this is Joe Delaney. He’s a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs.”
“It was all shock.”
What’s sadly ironic about Joe Delaney’s death coming at Chennault Park, is that he always wanted to build a park for kids himself.
After three decades of trying to get it done for Joe, Carolyn knows somewhere, he’s happy.
“I think Joe’s got the biggest smiles on his face because if joe would’ve still been living, then he would’ve had a park for the kids,” she said. “A lot of people think of Joe as a football player, but i think of Joe as a kind hearted person that would do anything for anybody.”
The Haughton community knew that side of Jo, that’s why he’s remembered in North Louisiana as the hero that he is.
And it’s why it was important to so many for this park to be built.
“They’ve never let me down being joe’s wife, they’ve kept it alive,” Carolyn Delaney said. “They really showed me how much they really care about Joe.”
The best way to understand Joe’s worth as a person is to talk to Carolyn.
She’s a widow, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. She can’t do anything but smile thinking about her husband.
Carolyn would never remarry, saying that she knows she’d compare other men to Joe, and they couldn’t come close.
Still, she feels she’s never been alone.
“The type of person joe was, i feel that Joe never left me,” Carolyn said. “He’s always been by my side. So I guess I have never thought of him as being gone.” “It’s hard for him not being here, but in my heart i feel that he’s still with me every day.”
Now Joe lives on not just through Carolyn, but through the generations of kids that will get to run around Joe Delaney Park like Joe himself used to run around defenses.
Just as Joe always wanted.