(March 5, 1923-January 14, 1997)
Let’s kick off our year highlighting the person whose monument first grabs ones attention as they make their way up the Crown. If the name doesn’t get your attention, the horseshoe on the monument, pointing upwards to catch good luck, does.
It’s not just any horseshoe, it’s an Indianapolis Colts horseshoe, for this is the monument of Robert Irsay, the man who brought the Colts to town.
Robert Irsay, a Chicago native, didn’t become well-known locally until relatively late in his life. After serving as a Marine in World War II, he joined his father’s heating and ventilation business in 1946 and started a family with his wife Harriet. In 1951 he formed his own sheet metal business, which did well enough to enable him to start other businesses and acquire the cash to buy the Los Angeles Rams in 1972, trading them for ownership into the Baltimore Colts on the same July day.
His relationship with the city of Baltimore was contentious to the point that on March 27, 1984, Maryland’s legislature passed a law giving the city the right to seize the Colts under eminent domain. Believing they would exercise that right, Irsay accepted a deal from Indianapolis, which had built the Hoosier Dome before it had a team to play there, and Mayflower Moving Company trucks from Indianapolis packed up the team’s belongings and arrived here in the early hours of March 29, greeted by an enthusiastic crowd.
Irsay settled into life in Indianapolis, divorcing Harriet in 1988 and marrying Nancy Clifford in 1989. In November 1995 he suffered a severe stroke and suffered other health problems even after his recovery, dying on January 14, 1997. Ownership of the Colts passed on to his son Jim, while Nancy continued to be active in the city’s social life. She passed away in 2015, at age 65, and is buried beside Robert.
Location: Section 88, Lot 5; GPS (39.8189382, -86.1762901)