On June 29, 1983, Joe Delaney, a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs who was living in nearby Ruston, went with friends to Critter’s Creek, an amusement center at Chennault Park in Monroe, Louisiana. While reportedly discouraging swimming children from venturing too far out in a pond, Delaney dove in to save three children who were screaming for help, floundering in a water hole left by recent construction work. The water hole, which covered two acres and was 6 foot deep, was not intended for swimming but to add to the park’s aesthetics. Despite his inability to swim, Delaney nevertheless tried to rescue the children. One child managed to get out of the water without harm and another was taken to an emergency room where he later died; police recovered the body of Delaney and the remaining child. The amusement park has since been closed to the public.
Delaney’s name is commemorated at Arrowhead Stadium in the Kansas City Chiefs ring of honor.
Three thousand people attended Delaney’s burial and memorial service on July 4 which was held in the sweltering heat of the Haughton High School gymnasium. President Ronald Reagan honored Delaney with the Presidential Citizens Medal on July 15, and it was presented to Delaney’s family by Vice President George H. W. Bush. Reagan’s words were:
“ He made the ultimate sacrifice by placing the lives of three children above regard for his own safety. By the supreme example of courage and compassion, this brilliantly gifted young man left a spiritual legacy for his fellow Americans.
Parts of this story were taken from Wikipedia.