Remembering John Dilenschneider, one of the many Americans lost to COVID-19 : NPR

Jack Delenschneider died in September at the age of 89 from COVID-19. After starting a small law firm in Ohio in the 1960s, he moved south to defend civil rights activists and others seeking to vote peacefully.



Sarah McCayman, Host:

Over the past year and a half, we’ve been remembering some of the more than 700,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in the United States, and we’ve asked you to share their stories with us.

Elsa Chang, Host:

Today we are remembering John Dilenschneider, also known as Jack. He died last month at the age of 89. Jack met his 65-year-old wife, Rudy, at the University of Notre Dame. He made his home in Ohio, where he worked as an assistant attorney general before moving to Mississippi in the mid-1960s. There, he defended civil rights activists and others who tried to vote peacefully. Jack and Rudy’s daughter Ann says her parents have made a lifelong commitment to helping others.

Anne Delensnyder: You know, both of them were well-versed in Catholicism – solid Catholic social justice – that everyone is involved. There is space on everyone’s table. Also, there were a lot of us – 10 kids, so there was always room for us and a few others. Our friends will also be there for dinner. It was a big dining table.

MCCAMMON: Jack Dilenschneider worked hard to keep food on this big dining table. Over the years, he has served as a bankruptcy judge, taught bankruptcy law, and served as a lawyer in the Ohio Supreme Court. But his daughter Ann says none of the 10 children were ignored.

DILENSCHNEIDER: I really wonder how they both navigated the 10 of us. And we’re spread out at the age of 16, so there’s a big difference in handling many, many different interests. And yet he kept showing us what he was doing for us.

Chang: Jack Delenschneider loved the arts. He was a big fan of Shakespeare, and there was usually music in the house.

DILENSCHNEIDER: I remember with my dad installing wiring speakers in all the bedrooms so he could play music when he was trying to get 10 of us to bed. July 4th always started at 6am with John Philip Sosa, a great way to get out of bed in the morning. But he picked us up and left.

MCCAMMON: In January last year, Rody Dilenschneider died. Then an epidemic struck, leaving Jack in a quarantine without Rudy for the first time in 65 years. But she had her children and Zoom.

DILENSCHNEIDER: And the good part of COVID was, in fact, zooming in because we were all over the world. And the opportunity to get together every week and watch a football game together – Dad will tell us more about himself and Mom and their meeting and company, early years, things we never really knew Were But he also missed her badly.

Chang: He wrote letters to Rudy every day after Jack’s death. Then in September, he was coded despite being vaccinated.

Dalenschneider: He woke up one morning and told my brother there that he wanted to go to the hospital. He just kind of announced that he wanted to go. And he went to the hospital, and it was decided that he had COVID.

Chang: Jack Delinquent went into a coma and died on September 22.

DILENSCHNEIDER: But he was willing to live with my mother. And I think – for him, that’s the way he and he want to be. One of my father’s things – one of the last things he shared with us – is a brilliant line from a Spanish philosopher. John Lennon said it, but there’s something about it – it’ll be fine in the end. And if all else fails, get ideas from others.

(Sound byte of song, “Stand by me”)

John Lennon: (singing) And darling, darling, stand with me.

MCCAMMON: If you want us to commemorate a loved one you lost to COVID-19, find us on Twitter at NPRATC. At the top is a pinned tweet.

(Sound byte of song, “Stand by me”)

Lenin: (singing) Stand with me.

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