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Being Frank

Remembering the unforgettable Frank Delaney



Diane Meier and her late husband Frank Delaney: unwavering supporters of the Litchfield community.

Photo by Jerry Bauer

Frank Delaney was a dynamic personality with a devilish sense of humor and a deep appreciation for his home in Litchfield County. He treasured his friends and made each of them feel special with an undivided attention that singled them out as if they were his favorite friend. We met many years ago at a dinner party in Washington. He was with his beloved wife, Diane Meier. They were so much fun and interesting that I did not want to interact with anyone else.

It was the beginning of a deep, lasting friendship and our hostess recognized the bond. She said, “You will become best friends.” She couldn’t have been more on target. Each time I included the Delaneys in a dinner invitation, they were the stars. Frank could entertain effortlessly with his wonderful sense of humor, regaling all with stories of his experiences and the many celebrities he met in his illustrious career without a hint of pretentiousness. I wanted Frank at every party and included him as often as possible. I was frequently their guest as well. One Sunday they had me for dinner alone. What a treat. 

Diane is a marvelous cook and the evening was memorable in every way. As an immigrant myself, I shared with Frank a deep pride in our chosen homeland. In fact, Frank was immensely patriotic and you’d be hard-pressed to realize that he was not born in the United States. This was evident with his involvement with everything American. After an enviable career at the BBC in London, and authoring over 30 books, he threw himself into charitable endeavors. His talent for public speaking was legendary in Litchfield County, so naturally he became known as “The Toastmaster.” When the Housatonic Valley Association needed an emcee for its annual auction, they called Frank. 

He was effective not only because of his great skill, but also because he so believed in the cause and we could feel his enthusiasm. As master of ceremonies, he was an integral part of the presentations at Kent Presents, an East Coast version of The Aspen Institute. Frank’s love of the environment went beyond the HVA, and he was instrumental in raising thousands of dollars for Kent Land Trust. He played a major role in the After School Arts Program (ASAP), again as emcee, making sure the children on stage received more attention than he did. Often, Diane and Frank opened their home and pockets to raise funds for a local non-profit or community fundraiser. We all felt lucky to attend.

Listing his accomplishments is endless, his intellect was celebrated, his love of the written word was renowned. He was a coveted guest, and he will be remembered with love and respect and missed by all who crossed his path. I’ve asked a few people who knew Frank to offer their remembrances:

Edmund Morris, Pulitzer Prize–winning author - When most people die, their voices and physical presence fade quickly into insubstantial memory. There are a few, like Frank, who refuse to disappear or be silent. I can hear his soft, sibilant brogue right now, and see him so vividly, it’s hard to accept that he’s not right across the table, beaming over a bottle of non-alcoholic beer.

Jay Kriegel, real-estate executive and political expert - Kent had our own Irish Bard. Frank Delaney unabashedly loved his adopted country. Sadly, his citizenship papers are in process, due any day. So we will miss the grand party that Frank and his beloved Diane had planned to celebrate his new American passport. We nonetheless will long celebrate his many gifts, our lives having been diminished by his loss. 

Lawrence B. Kessler, ASAP Advisory Committee - I have always thought that you can tell a lot about a person by how he or she relates to children—particularly, if they are not his own. If I am correct, Frank Delaney was a saint. He was a significant supporter of ASAP, a non-profit that fosters creative, hands-on learning through the arts for children of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds from over 100 Connecticut towns. Frank brought out the best in the young writers he encountered, with his sensitive, caring, approachable, engaging, and absolutely brilliant style—for which he will always be remembered.

Sylvia Jukes Morris, biographer - I miss most his warm smile, and the depth and breadth of his conversation, ranging with ease from Irish literature to farming and rugby football, or hilarious anecdotes about some of the 3,000 interviews he conducted for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Nancy Kissinger - Frank Delaney was witty, charming, and extraordinarily learned. Beyond that, he was a good man. His gentleness and kindness were rare and wonderful qualities, from which everyone benefitted.

Christine Baranski, Tony Award–winner - The annual HVA auction will never be the same without Frank Delaney’s ebullient and generous presence. Always offering to cook for a large group and entertain them with stories and poetry. A fabulous raconteur, erudite, literate, witty, a master of the English language with enough fascinating stories about fascinating people to fill an entire evening. Actually many, many evenings. How our community will miss him. I am so grateful that I knew him!

Jane Klein, Kent Land Trust - Frank and his wife Diane were great friends of so many people in Litchfield County as well as generous supporters of the Kent Land Trust. In fact, a few years ago they graciously hosted the KLT annual cocktail benefit at their beautiful North Kent home. Frank loved Kent and was a vital and integral part of our community. We will miss him greatly.


My Frank
When I visited Frank’s birthplace in Tipperary, the Golden Vale of Ireland, I was stunned by how much it reminded me of Litchfield County. No wonder Frank felt at home here. He treasured our generosity and our care for our neighbors and friends, as something inherently American. He made sure we did our part to “give back” to those who asked for our help: libraries, the environment, human rights, hospitals, the arts. At every request, Frank was open to seeing how we could help to make our collective lives better, safer, more civilized, and more beautiful. 

A few months ago I heard him introduced, in some jest, as the “Bard of the Housatonic.” Everyone chuckled, but I think we all recognized that there was some truth in this. He did belong to all of us who border this lovely river. His greatest books, his Re:Joyce work, and screenplays all came about in Kent. 

Over the years we’ve heard from hundreds of readers from all over the world who have followed “Ireland” journeys with Frank’s works in hand. Now, I hope some will find their way to our county to see what sustained him to go on giving us such work and wit and wild beauty. And I hope they can understand that it was not just nature and the countryside that inspired him, but the community of neighbors and friends who were there to be included, who had welcomed him with open hearts. —Diane Meier


PLAUDITS
Frank Delaney earned top prizes as author, broadcaster, journalist, screenwriter, lecturer, and playwright. He lectured all over the world, wrote daily, and created the podcast series Re:Joyce, deconstructing Joyce’s Ulysses, in five-minute broadcasts. He lived in Kent with wife Diane Meier until his sudden death in February. 

 

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December 2018

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