Family shares memories of father who drowned saving children

A family is mourning a father of three who drowned while saving two young girls at an Illinois lake.

An amazing brother and friend who would give you the shirt off his back. That's how family described the father of three who drowned while saving two young girls in an Illinois lake.

His mother, his cousin and two of his sisters were shocked that a man they describe as their rock, Jeremy Jelley, drowned in Rend Lake. They say the lake was like a second home to him and described him as a strong swimmer. 

Jeremy Jelley dove in the lake to save his girlfriend’s two 12-year-old daughters from strong waves Friday night. A storm hit Franklin County Friday night causing very strong winds and powerful waves at the lake. He didn't make it back to safety, but he'll be remembered as a hero.

His mother, Dean Jelley, said she is very proud of him.

“Not just because he's my son," she said. "There are a lot of amazing people out there and I’m proud that he did the right thing.”

Jelley’s sister, Annie Jelley-Crews, said she is also proud of him. She says her brother’s friends are also selfless.

“The world needs a hero and there are a lot of them out there right now,” she said.

Jelley’s cousin, Ronald Ray Jelley, said he has a lot of great memories with Jeremy. He said just last summer they caught 32 catfish at the lake. He said Jeremy was like a brother to him.

Jeremy’s cousin James says, “My cousin was the most stubborn beautiful person on God's green earth," he said. "Never given a task he couldn't step up to. I'm very proud of his stubbornness. He's my hero for being not only cousin-brother and friend, but for being a man and knowing what had to be done for those baby girls.”

Betty Harrelson describes Jeremy as a hero and the best little brother that anyone could ask for.

Jeremy leaves behind two daughters and a son. They range in age from 5- to 13-years-old. Funeral arrangements for their dad are pending at Johnson and Vaughn Funeral Home in Fairfield.

© 2017 KSDK-TV


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