Obituary of Stephen Barrett Delaney
Stephen (Steve) Barrett Delaney
He had a voice that carried authority, facts, color from the scene, insight and, above all, carefully crafted words that captured it all.
That voice belonged to Steve Delaney – longtime NBC News correspondent – and was silenced at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 3, in Charlotte, North Carolina, after a valiant struggle with overwhelming health issues.
He took television viewers to Kent State, the Attica prison riots and the Challenger space explosion that claimed the life of a teacher and a NASA crew before millions of viewers and then he helped America understand what had happened. In the mid-70s, he was based in Israel and later Greece covering the tensions in the Middle East from both sides. (His coverage of the Israeli rescue of hostages in Entebbe earned him a cameo role in two films about that historic event.)
Steve covered politics in Washington DC and the political campaigns of George H. W. Bush, John Glenn, Howard Baker, and Walter Mondale.
From Washington, he went to NBC New York where he was one of three correspondents reporting for “Monitor”, a weekly prime-time news magazine. Steve was sent into Libya in 1986. Reporting by telephone, he led the top of Nightly News when US jet fighters strafed Tripoli including the hotel where he was staying. “Tom (Brokaw), Tripoli is under attack.” And he couldn’t disconnect that telephone line for several days for fear of losing the only communication between him and the studio in New York.
And after his distinguished career with NBC News, Steve retired to his beloved Vermont where he and his wife, Lynn, built a year-round home on the shores of Lake Champlain in Milton, just across the road from a summer cottage they had purchased in 1985 and near where Steve’s grandparents had summer vacationed since 1915.
Retirement was not in the books for him. He commuted weekly to Boston to anchor a daily news program on a new cable network created by The Christian Science' Monitor followed by a news assignment a lot closer to home on Vermont Public Radio where he anchored an early morning and then a midday news program.
Delaney, who was most proud of his Irish heritage, had a great sense of humor and shared his love of Irish lore with a book about Irish legends “The Last Irish Goddess.”
That fondness for Irish culture carried over to a tradition he and his wife started while living and working in Israel – a St. Patrick’s Day party where you’d find his journalist colleagues, family and friends from wherever they were living enjoying Delaney hospitality. Those parties continued in Washington, DC (where then Vice-President Bush showed up), on Long Island when they lived there and most especially in Vermont.
He wrote The Nilesburgh Chronicles trilogy about life in a fictional Vermont town, capturing the spirit and dialect of the rural Vermont village – much like the one in which he lived.
He collected an array of essays reflecting life in Vermont as he saw it. Many he had delivered on air for The Christian Science Monitor or Vermont Public Radio. It was titled Vermont Seasonings (2011) and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont said this about it, “Steve Delaney is one of the most perceptive personalities ever to grace a radio wave. In Vermont Seasonings he captures and distills the tradition and raw nature that make Vermont a different place and a special place. He artfully blends the wry with the witty, the sublime with subliminal, and the endearing with the enduring.”
Despite a busy professional career, he also had time for a family that included a son Sean and a daughter Megan, from his 45-year marriage with Lynn, and two sons Barry and Houston, and daughters Annie and Beth from an earlier marriage. Steve is also survived by eleven grandchildren, and his brothers, John, Peter and David and sister Mary, and many in-laws, and nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents and his sister Cynthia.
Stephen Barrett Delaney was born August 30, 1938, in Dobbs Ferry, New York, the son of Elizabeth Barrett and John Joseph Delaney, Jr. A harbinger of the career that lay ahead, he was at, age three, playing outside their home in Aiea Heights overlooking Pearl Harbor on the morning of the Japanese attack. “Look, Daddy, smoke,” Steve reported to his naval officer dad, who quickly sped off toward the harbor. After WWII, the family lived in Virginia and Illinois before settling in Charlotte, NC. He attended Charlotte Catholic in his senior year and in 1960 graduated from Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina. While he was still in college Steve started his career in radio, at first as a disc jockey at WCGC in Belmont, and then joined WSOC Radio where the 22-year-old was known for his diplomacy and quick-thinking with his “Charlotte Party Line” show. He then joined WSOC’s television news department and in the late sixties was hired by The NBC owned and operated station WKYC in Cleveland, before moving to Atlanta, Georgia when NBC opened a southeast bureau.
Steve was proud of his 50-year career as a reporter. He wrote a commentary on Facebook on Oct. 15th of last year ending with, “We journalists are not the enemy of the people. We ARE the people.”
A Celebration of Life for Steve Delaney will be held at Cornerstone Community Church on Bombardier Rd. In Milton, Vermont on Saturday, July 27, at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to your favorite charity.