He loved his job so much that, when off duty, he rarely was out of earshot of his beloved radio scanner.
The crackling of emergency calls made him always feel connected to his family at Metro Net Fire Dispatch in Anaheim.
For John Delgado Jr., the radio fell silent Oct. 4 when, after bravely battling several health issues for nine months, he died.
Delgado was 41.
For 12 years, the native of Orange helped 911 callers during the worst moments of their lives, calmly walking them through traumatic experiences.
Behind the Badge OC featured one of the most dramatic calls of Delgado’s career at Metro Net, when he methodically walked a frantic father through CPR after the man’s son was born in a toilet at home.
“John was very dedicated to his job and he took the responsibility of a 911 dispatcher very seriously,” said Gary Gionet, manager of Metro Net, whose official name is Metro Cities Fire Authority — the agency that handles fire calls for Anaheim and seven other cities.
“John was credited through his career with Metro Net with some lifesaving events and assisting with complicated child births,” Gionet said. “So in John’s passing there was also life to celebrate because of him being on the other end of those 911 calls.
“The void John leaves with his dispatch family will be felt for a very long time.”
Family and close friends joined several colleagues at Metro Net, as well as firefighters from cities the agency serves including Anaheim, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Newport Beach, Orange and Huntington Beach, at a funeral and burial for Delgado on Oct. 22.
“John Boy,” as Delgado lovingly was nicknamed, was a man of service, the Rev. Bill Barman said at Delgado’s funeral Mass at La Purisima Catholic Church in Orange.
Members of the Fire Service Honor Guard — two each from Anaheim Fire & Rescue and the Huntington Beach Fire Department — upheld the fire service tradition of silently holding silver axes as funeral attendees entered and left the church.
Firefighters and dispatchers gave Delgado a final silent salute as his coffin was taken out to a hearse, which then delivered him to his final resting spot at nearby Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange.
Delgado was born at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange and attended La Purisima Catholic School through the eighth grade.
His mother, Emily, now 62, was a stay-at-home mom who raised Delgado along with a younger brother, Michael, now 32, and a younger sister, Jacqueline, 30.
Delgado’s father, John, 63, is a Vietnam veteran and a retired air conditioning and heating mechanic for the County of Orange.
John Delgado Jr. played football and baseball at El Modena High School and throughout his life remained very active in the community, volunteering his time as a first-aid specialist to needy families in Orange and Los Angeles counties and also Mexico, said his sister, Jacqueline Delgado Lyons.
“He was always like a second father to me,” Delgado Lyons said.
Delgado worked as a forklift driver for Fedco after high school before he and a good friend decided to look into dispatcher as a possible career.
“It’s something that sparked his interest — he really liked to help people,” Delgado Lyons said. “He was very nurturing and always had an interest in the medical field.”
Before joining Metro Net in 2003, Delgado worked as a dispatcher for three ambulance companies. His interest in the fire service was sparked by family vacations to Sequoia National Park while growing up.
“There would often be brush fires and people being flown via helicopter due to medical issues,” Delgado Lyons said. “He would be the first to volunteer for whatever was needed.”
Outside of work, Delgado, who was single, doted on his three nephews: Johnathan, 5, and Mykal, 2 (his brother’s children) and Aiden, 1, his sister’s son.
“He treated them like they were his own kids,” said Delgado Lyons, whose husband, Shawn Lyons, is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. The family lives outside Nashville, Tenn.
Delgado was known for his eclectic taste in music — he was just as passionate about country as he was about reggae, blues and mariachi — and his love for food.
He knew all the best places to eat in Orange County and loved to prepare meals for his relatives and friends.
“He loved to cook,” said he sister, “and when he did, he cooked for an army.”
Recently retired Metro Net Dispatch Supervisor Gloria Lee-Ré said Delgado had a huge heart. He arranged a fundraiser for her daughter Autumn when she was diagnosed with lymphoma, and also helped Lee-Ré install the wood floor of a house she was going to buy.
“He will be greatly missed,”Lee-Ré said. “The place won’t be the same without him.”