110-year-old man lived a life of 'uncommon grace'
Scott Wells has all manner of equine art in his office.
Not surprising for the president and general manager at Remington Park.
But amid horse paintings and horse figurines and horse pictures, a drawing of two horses holds a special place in Wells' heart. It wasn't done by a famous artist but rather by a long-time member of the track's housecleaning staff.
A janitor, really.
Thing is, anyone who crossed paths with Delmar Hopkins knows he was way more than his blue-collar job. A seemingly small cog in one of our city's sports machines showed everyone has power to change their team.
"I told him the last time I saw him," Wells said, "that (drawing) would always have a place of prominence where I can look at it and think about him."
Mr. Delmar, as he was known around the track, died last week. He was 110. That's what his paperwork said anyway. He freely admitted that he didn't remember being born and that folks didn't keep great records back then. But May 13, 1908, was what had been written down.
Even if it was off a bit, Mr. Delmar was still a centenarian — and a working one at that.
He continued cleaning at Remington Park as well as detailing cars on the side until a couple years ago. He didn't work because he needed money; Social Security and family more than provided for him. He worked because he needed the activity and the routine and the exercise.
As much as anything, he needed the people.
"That's what keeps me going," he said in 2013.
I had the good fortune of meeting and writing about Mr. Delmar back then. What a treat. He recalled his childhood in Honey Springs, Texas, a tiny town just south of the Red River. Electricity was so sparse in that area in those days, he said you couldn't see your hand in front of your face at night.
His family settled in Oklahoma after heavy rain marooned them in Chickasha. The post-World War I years had been tough for his folks, and they had been heading north, hoping to get to Detroit and find work in the factories there.
Mr. Delmar experienced the Great Depression and World War II, Jim Crow laws and desegregation, the moon landing and the birth of the internet. Think of what he was alive to see, from the amazing to the abhorrent.
And yet, Mr. Delmar's outlook never changed.
"He just had a very optimistic view on life," Wells said. "He was intensely non-judgmental, and he smiled. He had a smile in his heart, not just on his face.
"He had uncommon grace."
Wells hopes to say that and more at Mr. Delmar's funeral Saturday, even though he isn't sure how he's going to fight through his sorrow. Losing Mr. Delmar has hit hard. But Wells knows he has to share why he believes Mr. Delmar is so special.
"I think a guy in his position had to have a lot of forgiveness and kindness," Wells said. "It's easy to be kind when you're satisfied, but when you're being treated the way he was inevitably treated in some portions of his life, it's a different kind of grace if you can have kindness toward everyone. I think we could all benefit from being a little more forgiving."
That example inspired Wells to start the Delmar Hopkins Spirit Award a couple years ago. It is given annually to a Remington employee with exemplary positivity and dedication.
Last year when the award was given, Mr. Delmar was there. So were many members of his family. They were given use of a suite which became a pseudo reception room. Workers from every department at the track made their way over during the day just to say hello, to tell Mr. Delmar how much they missed seeing him, to say how grateful they were for him.
"One bad apple can spoil the barrel," Wells said, "but one really shining star can light up the sky."
Mr. Delmar did just that, and we are so lucky to have had him in our orbit.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.
CELEBRATION OF LIFE
A celebration of life for Delmar Hopkins will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Rolfe Funeral Home, 2936 NE 36 Street.