On March 1st 2010, Delaney Bus Lines and the Delaney family suffered a tremendous loss. Company architect and President, Michael Doran Delaney passed away at the age of 61.
Michael was diagnosed in July 2009 with a rare blood disease called Myelodysplastic Syndrome. This disease eventually led to Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, to which Michael eventually succumbed.
The Delaney family would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to visit www.aamac.ca to learn more about Myelodysplastic Syndrome and to donate generously to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Fund at the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, 737 Parkdale Ave., 1st Floor, Ottawa, Ontario K1Y 1J8. We also ask that you support your local blood bank by donating blood.
Michael was around buses from birth. His father Vincent purchased his first Reo school buses in 1948, some of the first in Eastern Ontario and the same year Michael was born. The early years of Michael’s life were not always easy. As a young boy, he suffered from a degenerative disease of the hip joint called Legg-Perthes. This left him unable to enjoy many of the activities in which a young boy would participate. Many of the people of his generation from Avonmore still recall the time Michael spent in a body cast as a boy, being pulled about town in a little red wagon to watch his friends play sports and games.
It is perhaps the adversity that Michael endured as a young boy that later gave him his love for life which he shared with all, as well as the desire to achieve greatness in everything he pursued. In his high school years, Michael enjoyed a great deal of success in the world of academia and student government. One of the more interesting highlights of his high school career was an appearance on the CBC television’s high school trivia show called “Reach for the Top.”
Following high school, Michael pursued his education in the engineering program at Queen’s University in Kingston. However, it was after his time at Queen’s that Michael found his true calling – the open road. In 1969, he found an ad in the paper, which was posted by people who had moved from Montreal to the west coast. The ad was advertising for people to drive cars from Montreal to Vancouver. This sounded like the type of adventure he had been looking for.
In the winter of 1970, Michael set off on one of his greatest adventures. A young man, a guitar, a car, and AM radio. He often spoke of the sense of adventure he felt setting off alone, across the country for the first time. The memories of driving through small prairie towns and always being able to find a Beatles song playing on at least one station on the radio dial. Upon his arrival on the west coast, he found a whole new world. Vancouver, the big city with all kinds of things he had never seen back east… there was even a McDonalds restaurant! He worked at several jobs when he first arrived, such as a check out boy at the grocery store managed by his uncle. But the job that defined his time on the west coast was working at the port of Vancouver for Japan Shipping Co. where he was responsible for booking ships in and out of port. This job gave him the financial stability to afford some of his great toys – a BSA motorcycle, which he would take camping in the interior on the weekends, and his famous red 1967 Triumph Spitfire convertible.
It was the fall of 1971 when Michael set back across the country for home, armed with a lifetime of great stories, a wealth of new adventures behind him and a fancy little red convertible. Unfortunately, shortly after his return, in January of 1972, Michael’s father and Delaney Bus Lines founder Vincent Delaney passed away. It was at this point that Michael started to become more involved in the company, helping his mother Ursula with the day-to-day operations of their school bus fleet of eight. He continued to work with her for several years, performing the role of mechanic, driver, while learning the ropes of the business. In 1978 Michael made it official and took over the Delaney Bus Lines reins from his mother.
Michael’s hard work over the next several years resulted in the successful company it is today. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, many farmers in the area who had been operating a school bus or two as a supplement to their income, were beginning to get out of the bus business and Michael was more than happy to take their routes and buses off their hands. It was around the same time that he dipped his toes into a whole new world of the industry – the coach and tour business. He bought his first coach in 1979 and started Stormont Tours shortly thereafter.
In the summer of 1979, Michael started another great adventure – he married girlfriend Janet Laponsee. In the early years of their marriage, they worked together in the business doing it all: bus maintenance, cleaning, answering phones, driving and organizing tours to places like Nashville and Florida. In addition to all of this, they even found time to start a family.
Throughout the 80’s the business and family continued to grow. By 1990, there were approximately 30 school buses, 4 coaches, 1 mini-coach, 3 kids, 2 full-time office employees, and three mechanics. It was a busy time for Mike, but the rewards of his years of hard work were beginning to pay off.
During this time, Mike spent a lot of time taking his wife Janet and three children: Christie, Diana and Matthew, on adventures, trying to recapture and share some of the glory of his earlier years. Whether it was the east coast camping, driving to Florida or packing the whole family into an RV bound for the west coast, Mike’s love for the road, and love for learning and experiencing, was something he instilled upon his family.
By the start of the new millennium, the company was now well established and in its fifth decade. Bigger than ever, and now employing close to 50 people, Michael truly had created a great company and built a tremendous legacy. With the kids getting a little older and the next generation of Delaney family working their way up through the company, Michael could slowly and sometimes reluctantly begin to take more time for himself and his wife Janet.
In the summer of 2008 Michael did something he had been talking about for years. He went out and bought a shiny red convertible - a brand new Mazda Miata. He could truly show his wife Janet the greatness of the open road, the way he had always wanted to, in a little convertible. This time however, the ride had better suspension and a state-of-the-art sound system. They now spent much of their time cruising here, there, and everywhere in that little car, reliving and sharing Mike’s experiences from almost three decades earlier, in addition to creating new ones.
Whether it was with his kids in the back of a mini-van or with Janet in the little Miata, Michael’s legacy that will always live on through his family is his love of sharing everything he could in life with everyone he possibly could. This is especially true with his love for the road.
It is perhaps somewhat fitting that on the February 28th 2010, the night before Michael passed away, during the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games that Michael’s favorite musician, Neil Young took to the stage and performed a great road song that in some ways captured the essence of Michael’s time with us . . . Long May You Run.
Thank you for taking the time to share this small tribute to a great man, husband, father, son, brother, friend and employer.