Try 1 month for $5

HELENA- John Lee Delano, a former legislator, lobbyist and leader of many local and state charitable causes, died Nov. 24, 2010, in Helena of natural causes; he was 89.

With a ready smile and a good sense of humor, Delano was a man who knew many Montanans through his career in business and public service. He touched many lives.

When he retired from the Montana Railroad Association, its newsletter described Delano this way: "If you were to travel the state with John, you'd better allow plenty of time. No matter where you are, someone will know John. Passing motorist will call out to him to greet him. Merchants will hold up business to visit with him, and judges will stop proceedings to say hello. It seems like almost everyone in the state knows and cherishes John Delano."

He was born in Billings, Nov. 10, 1921, the son of Jack Henry and Helen Delano. He graduated from Billings High School in 1939.

Delano enrolled in what is now called the University of Montana and received a degree in business in 1947. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

He worked summers as a bellhop at Canyon Hotel in Yellowstone National Park.

At the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army and served five years, primarily in the Pacific Theater, resigning as a captain.

In 1949, he married Katy Lou Shallenberger, daughter of longtime physics Professor G. D. Shallenberger and Grace Shallenberger of Missoula.

After graduation, he moved to Billings where he was in the soft drink business. In 1956, Delano moved to Helena and became state sales manager and Public relations director for Blue Shield and began a long career as a lobbyist and Legislator.

Delano served four years as a state Representative from Helena in the Montana Legislature during the 1960's.

A college classmate and friend, UM President, Bob Pantzer, tapped Delano in 1968 to work as executive director of the Alumni Association. In this role, he lobbied at the legislature for what was then all six units of the University System for two sessions. In 2004, John and Katy Delano were awarded the Neil Bucklew Service award by the University.

Delano then was hired as director of the Montana Railroad Association, a post he held from 1971 to 1986, handling public relations and lobbying among his other duties.

He then formed his own lobbying and consulting firm and worked from 1987-1997.

As a lobbyist, Delano helped lobby for the passage of Montana's seat belt law.

Besides his active business career, Delano joined the Jaycees, eventually serving as state president, and the Helena Kiwanis Club, serving as its president of the local club and past lieutenant governor of the state Kiwanis Clubs. He was also a 32nd degree Mason.

He served on the board of St. Peter's Hospital for 16 years and was president when the new hospital was built on the Helena's eastside. He also served 12 years on the hospital's foundation board.

In the mid 1980's, Delano was approached by some community activist to travel the state and talk up the idea of creating a statewide philanthropic organization. Delano said he was told by many that it wouldn't work because Montana was too diverse and to isolated, with too little wealth.

Today, the Montana Community Foundation that he helped establish has grown from fewer than a dozen endowments totaling less than $300,000.00 to more than $50 million in assets today.

Delano, a state champion trapshooter in 1959, was a past state president of the Montana Trapshooting Association and was its secretary for 20 years.

An Eagle Scout as a boy, Delano later served as a past president of the Western Montana Boy Scout Council.

Delano was an avid outdoorsman with love of hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, rafting and trapshooting.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Katy; an infant son John Garvin; his parents Jack and Helen Delano; and his brother Jim.

Survivors include his two daughters, Marcia Delano Barfknecht and her husband Jim Barfknecht of Helena, Joni Delano Hantz and her husband Scott Hantz of Colstrip; and four grandsons, Brad and John Barfknecht, and Carlin and Sam Hantz.

Anderson, Stevenson, Wilke Funeral Home will be handling the arrangements. Friends are invited to celebrate John's life at a memorial service to be announced later this spring.

Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting:

In lieu of flowers, the family prefers donations made to a charity of your choice or to:

U of M Foundation

P. O. Box 7159

Missoula, MT 59807-7159


Montana Community Foundation

1 N Last Chance Gulch

Helena, MT 59601

Chief Dull Knife College

P. O. Box 98

Lame Deer, MT 59043


Sign up to get each day's obituaries sent to your email inbox

Load entries