Mark Delafchell

Published 9:30 am Thursday, May 23, 2024

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There are so many incongruities in life.   Most of us want to live a long and happy life.   Then there are those who become so depressed that they take their own lives.

Life is filled with questions and paradoxes.  You watch the news and observe the many instances of someone taking another’s life.  It is hard to fathom how routinely murder takes place, especially in our big cities.

Then there are accidents which snuff out someone’s life, leaving a void that brings about a hurt that will never subside.

That was the way it was in the last fortnight when Mark Delafchell, a most valuable employee of the Georgia Athletic Association, lost his life in an accident in McDuffie County somewhere along Interstate 20.

It was a “say it ain’t so,” moment.  His fellow employees and associates remain in disbelief.   Everybody who knew him had nothing but high marks for him for the way he did his job, for his relationship with those with whom he worked, for his selfless and helping-hand style which set him apart.

The Senior Director of Facilities & Capital Projects was Mark’s title, but it never ended there.  He was always fixing something for somebody—even on weekends and holidays—and never once said, “I can’t.”   Or, “I won’t.”  He was one you could call in the middle of the night and he would come post-haste to your need, whatever it was.  He was the Good Samaritan.  He would get your ox out of the ditch.

He never protested that any request was not in his job description.  He never complained about anything being too challenging or too insignificant for him to tackle. While he never took to the stump to call attention to himself or his views on anything, he was an un-retreating practitioner of the “Golden Rule.”  He preached what he practiced.

Eulogizers included Josh Brooks, Director of Athletics, a longtime friend, Matt Walter, his brother, Mike, and a former associate who became a minister, Jonathan Evans.  Each had a resonating story to share with the mourners which included coaches, administrators, hourly wage earners, and loyal friends.  The Reverend Evans, who, perhaps, knew Mark best, other than his brother, Mike, was visibly moved as he recalled his halcyon days with his departed friend.

I have never heard a more heartfelt eulogy with more genuine feeling.  The reverend was obviously shaken at the loss of his treasured friend.

Somewhere in the Beatitudes, there should be something descriptive of Mark’s life that reminds that humble men are the greatest of men.

Mark gloried in being a member of the Bulldog family.  He had the keys to the kingdom in that he could spring free all the locks that protected Sanford Stadium.  No UGA employee appreciated being a member of the Bulldog staff than Mark.

“No man I have ever been associated with, took more pride in his work than Mark,” said Charley Whittemore, former Bulldog player and coach who became an administrator late in his career.  “He was caring, he was loyal and never had an axe to grind with anyone.”

Mark’s service was held in the University Chapel on North Campus.  That is where men of letters have stood and pontificated with scholars and savants; governors and senators; poets, lecturers, and cerebral highbrows—sermonizing with insightful oratory.

This was not that kind of service.  This was about a salt-of-the earth man who truly loved his fellow man and would give you the shirt off his back without expecting anything in return.

It was the service of a good and decent man who was giving and forgiving—one who only experienced a headline in death.  He never scored a touchdown to win a big game, but his heart was as red and black as the UGA heroes of the days of yore.

He represented the common man, the blue-collar fraternity and those who loved Georgia as much as anybody who walked through the Arch or the portals of Sanford Stadium.  He couldn’t give his university a head turning gift.  All he could give the University of Georgia was his heart.