Two years after his death, family and friends celebrate the life of former Saints kicker Tom Dempsey
Dempsey died from COVID at the age of 73 on April 4, 2020.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It was a memorial two years in the making for former New Orleans Saints player Tom Dempsey, who died from COVID in April 2020. Today, his family, friends and fans were able to celebrate his life and legacy.
It was a moment to remember-- then kicker for the Saints, Dempsey set a record 63-yard field goal on November 8, 1970, with his right foot, which had no toes-- something he was born with.
It’s a record-setting kick he would hold for 43 years in the NFL.
Former trainer for the Saints of 31 years Dean Kleinschmidt remembers the moment like it was yesterday.
“He came to training camp with us in 1969, jumped up on the table to get his ankle tapes and he had the deformity,” he said. “It shocked me when he jumped up on the table and said, ‘Don’t worry about it kid, just tape it the way you would a normal ankle.’ And he was right. The only thing he was missing was the foot part but the ankle was in tact.”
Kleinschmidt said that iconic kick that won the game against the Detroit Lions was incredible.
“It was just an amazing act that the NFL world just blew up when it happened. He was really special,” he said. “I guess I didn’t realize at the time that it would be such an iconic moment. But it really was.”
In a room full of loved ones, it’s no surprise just how special Dempsey was. Two years after his death from COVID and after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, his family and friends are finally able to celebrate his life after having to reschedule three separate times during the pandemic.
“This has been delayed because of COVID but this was a long time coming and he deserves it. He really did,” said family friend Barry McGuinness. “I don’t wear jerseys that often. I don’t own any jerseys other than a Tom Dempsey jersey.”
“But Tom was a great guy. Tom was a guy that you wanted to be around. He was charismatic that way where people gravitated toward him,” said McGuinness.
Dempsey’s sister Jan Dempsey MacArthur says growing up with Tom he was always “a gentle giant.”
“He shined and it showed,” she said. “He included everybody in his conversations... it was really something.”
“I would have never known that growing up, who knew that your brother was going to become this outstanding athlete and touched so many people,” said MacArthur. “I know my mom and dad were real proud of him and I am too.”
It was also a day to share stories-- from the field, college, to dating.
Dempsey’s wife Carlene remembers his famous kick, and how Tom-- her boyfriend at the time-- didn’t call her after the game when they first started dating.
“You know, I waited and he still didn’t [call] and so this other guy called me to go to the movies. So I said, ‘Fine. I’m going.’ And when he called me, I wasn’t there,” she said.
“I was mad at him for not [calling] but I didn’t know he was stuck in the locker room.”
It was 1970-- There were no cellphones. She didn’t know he was celebrating after the game with the rest of the New Orleans Saints.
“He always told me I missed the best party ever,” she laughed.
It was an iconic moment and an even more iconic guy whose legacy will live on in NFL and Saints history.
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