Brian Piccolo wife, Joy Murrath, was left heartbroken after he passed from cancer in 1970.
As a single mother, she faced the immense challenge of raising three young daughters, Lori, Traci, and Kristi, who were just 4, 3, and 1 years old, respectively, when her husband passed away.
However, in time, she discovered a new love and embraced a new chapter in her life through marriage.
This newfound support and companionship gave her the strength and resilience she needed to rebuild her life and move forward with her children.
Brian Piccolo, an American professional football player, served as a halfback for the Chicago Bears in the National Football League (NFL) for four years.
Notably, his journey into professional football began as an undrafted free agent, having not been selected in the 1965 NFL or AFL draft.
Nevertheless, he pursued his passion and earned a spot with the Chicago Bears for the 1965 season as a member of the taxi squad (nowadays known as the practice squad).
The following year, in 1966, his hard work and determination paid off as he secured a place on the main roster, although his on-field contributions were primarily focused on special teams.
Before his professional career, Brian showcased his talents in college football, representing the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Brian Piccolo Wife: Joy’s Journey with Rick O’Connell
Three years after Brian Piccolo’s untimely passing, Joy found love in Rick O’Connell, the son of a dedicated Chicago-based policeman.
Rick, an industrious American, makes his livelihood in the ready-mix concrete industry.
Around 1973, Joy and Rick made a heartfelt commitment to each other, exchanging vows to become husband and wife.
Since then, this loving couple has celebrated nearly five decades of marriage, residing happily in Delavan, Wisconsin.
Their shared journey also includes the addition of two sons, Mike and Tom O’Connell.
Brian Piccolo Wife Honors His Legacy
In the wake of Brian’s passing, Joy Murrath, alongside her family, friends, and NFL teammates, came together to establish the ‘Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund’ as a heartfelt tribute to the late Chicago Bears running back.
It has successfully raised millions of dollars for cancer research, even endowing chairs at esteemed institutions like the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute and Rush University Medical Center.
Both Joy and her now-husband Rick actively contribute to the foundation’s mission, raising funds to support those affected by cancer.
In addition to their philanthropic efforts, Joy, now 79, also provides care to her mother, Grace Murrath, who is nearing the remarkable age of 97.
Brian Piccolo Wife Left With Three Young Daughters
On November 16, 1969, during a game against the Falcons in Atlanta, Brian removed himself from play due to severe breathing difficulties.
Just days later, he sought medical attention at Illinois Masonic Hospital, where a chest x-ray revealed a diagnosis of embryonal cell carcinoma.
He then went down for surgery at Sloan-Kettering in Manhattan, New York, to remove the tumor.
Unfortunately, it didn’t help, so he underwent a second procedure in April 1970 to remove his left lung and left pectoral muscle.
Despite the surgery, he continued to experience persistent chest pain.
He was readmitted to the hospital in early June, where doctors determined that the cancer had spread, particularly affecting his liver.
Tragically, Brian Piccolo passed away in the early hours of June 16 at the age of 26, leaving behind his wife, Joy, and their three young daughters.
Brian and Joy Murrath: A Journey of Love & Loss
Brian and Joy exchanged their wedding vows on December 26, 1964, just three days before Brian inked his first contract with the Chicago Bears.
Their loving union endured for three years until Brian’s tragic battle with cancer came to an end.
During their time together, they were blessed with three children: Lori Piccolo, Kristi Piccolo, and Traci Piccolo.
Today, their daughters have become independent adults with their own marriages and families.