The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 
PHOTO COURTESY OF BEA RHODES

George Delaney, a longtime Bedford Hills resident and a leader in the local Democratic Party, died last week as the age of 84.

 
George Delaney, force in local Democratic Party, dies at 84


By JOHN ROCHE

Bedford Hills resident George Delaney, a longtime behind-the-scenes force in the local Democratic Party as well as in town politics and the Lions Club, was mourned this week after suffering a fatal heart attack on Feb. 22. He was 84.

A wake for Mr. Delaney at Clark Associates Funeral Home in Katonah on Sunday drew an overflow crowd, and family, friends, neighbors and colleagues in the fields of law and politics packed into St. Patrick’s Church in Bedford Village on Monday to pay their final respects.

Mr. Delaney was traveling home from Ash Wednesday services at St. Patrick’s last week when he apparently went into cardiac arrest behind the wheel. Attempts by police to resuscitate him where his car went off the road were unsuccessful.

Speaking at the funeral mass, Bedford Town Justice Kevin Quaranta summed up the legacy of Mr. Delaney, whom the judge and fellow Democrats described as a colleague, mentor, friend and father figure.

“George was ferocious, tenacious and fiercely loyal to the Democratic principles, most of all those being about fairness and justice for all people,” the judge said, highlighting Mr. Delaney’s successful efforts in leading a resurgence of the Democratic Party in Bedford, particularly in the last decade.

Mr. Quaranta also described Mr. Delaney as a deeply loyal friend to many people, in Bedford and beyond. “At the wake yesterday, it was easy to realize that there were so many people from all walks of life here in the community and elsewhere who were friends with George,” Mr. Quaranta said, touching on Mr. Delaney’s years as a highly sought-after attorney at “white shoe” law firms in Manhattan and later at the Bronx County Courthouse, as well as an active member of the Lions Club and a member of the carnival committee at St. Patrick’s parish. “George cared very deeply about people, and people loved George. He touched the lives of many.”

But although he “lived and breathed” politics and treasured his many friendships, according to Mr. Quaranta, even those passions paled in comparison to his love of his wife of 50 years, Carol, their five children and their grandchildren.

“The greatest love of George’s life was family — there’s no doubt,” Mr. Quaranta said. “He was very devoted to Carol, and she to him. George was so proud of his children, and loved talking about his grandkids. His family was his greatest pleasure.”

Mr. Delaney is survived by his wife; five children, Danielle Meehan, of Suffern, Suzanne McCarthy, of West Palm Beach, Fla., Shelagh Thomas, of Clarence, N.Y., Kimberly Johnson of Greenwich, Conn., Thomas Delaney, of Portland, Ore.; three sons-in-law; a daughter-in-law; and nine grandchildren. He is also survived by seven of his siblings, Robert Delaney, Eileen Harrington, James Delaney, Father Thomas Delaney, John Delaney, Carol McCaffrey and Leo Delaney. He was predeceased by two sisters, Loretta Nixon and June Hoerle.

Three of his children reflected on their father’s life, love and legacy at the funeral mass, drawing both tears and laughter with stories about Mr. Delaney. His daughter Kimberly’s story about how her father defended her to speak her mind when she responded to her nursery school teacher’s lesson on U.S. presidents with the comment, “Mr. Nixon is a bad man.”

The next day, she explained, Mr. Delaney accompanied her to the Rippowam Cisqua nursery school. “My father made the case that even 4-year-olds are covered under the First Amendment,” she said, which was met with laughter from the throngs of mourners.

Westchester County Legislator Peter Harckham said he too would remember Mr. Delaney as a man deeply committed to family, community and Democratic principles.

“George had a heart of gold, and was passionate about his family and his community,” said Mr. Harckham, who serves as the majority leader of the county board of legislators. “George was deeply committed to values, and was a partisan, in the purest sense of the word. He believed in the Democratic Party, and was always willing to fight for what he believed was right. I’d like to think he’s having a lively debate with [Republican strategist] Lee Atwater as we speak.”

Councilman Chris Burdick, who worked closely with Mr. Delaney on local elections including his own in 2007 to the town board with fellow Democrat David Gabrielson, reflected on Mr. Delaney’s contributions to Bedford.

“There are few people who cherished Bedford as did George,” Mr. Burdick said. “He was strong-willed and at times misunderstood in his occasional gruff manner. George worked tirelessly for progressive causes. Personally, he was a teacher who helped me enormously to grow in my work for the town. I was very fond of George and will miss him terribly.”

Many of his Bedford Democratic Committee colleagues were at the mass on Feb. 27, including David Menken, Mitchell Weingarten, Lydia Landesberg, George Hernandez, Bea Rhodes and Dan Cullen, who headed the committee right after Mr. Delaney and before Bruce Yablon, the current chairman.

Ms. Rhodes, the secretary of the Bedford Democratic Committee, also worked very closely with Mr. Delaney on campaigns and other issue-driven initiatives. She said his death leaves a void in Bedford.

“George contributed so much in everything he did, and cared so much about our town and the people who live in it,” Ms. Rhodes said. “He was honest, decent and a good friend and mentor to me. I am grateful that I got to know him for the few years I did. I will miss him terribly, as will so many others in the community.”   

Supervisor Lee Roberts highlighted Mr. Delaney’s contributions through the local Democratic committee and the Lions. “George was very active in Democratic politics in town and always kept the debate lively,” Ms. Roberts, a Republican, said. “He served on the Bedford Hills Lions Club for many years and cared deeply about this community. Our thoughts are with Mrs. Delaney and their family.”

Monsignor George Thompson, the pastor of St. Patrick’s, said he’d like to think that Mr. Delaney was welcomed into heaven because of all the good work he did in his lifetime and the love he showed to his family and friends. “Perhaps he heard something like, ‘Come on in, George, and see what I’ve been able to build for you with all the material you’ve been sending me throughout your life,” Monsignor Thompson said.  

A resident of Bedford since 1972, Mr. Delaney was born and raised in Pittsfield, Mass. He moved to New York City as a young man to see the world, and worked in the Merchant Marine as a purser before continuing his education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he received a B.A. in political science, and later at New York University Law School. He was admitted to the bar in New York State in 1958. He married Carol Mahoney in 1962. They recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

The family asked that anyone wishing to make a contribution in Mr. Delaney’s memory do so to the Lions Club of Bedford Hills, P.O. Box 156, Bedford Hills, NY 10507.


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March 2, 2012