A Life's Story

September 12, 2020

Tough & loving

Blue Bombers hall of famer cherished his time in Canada

By: Kellen Taniguchi

When Victoria Delveaux Hughes asked her father what his greatest accomplishment was, the answer was always the same — playing the game he loves, football, and getting paid for it.

Born in Chicago, John (Jack) Delveaux was drafted by the National Football League’s New York Giants before being loaned up north to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1959 where he played until he suffered a devastating career-ending injury in 1964.

"My dad got hurt, he was playing football and he got hit… it detached a nerve in his neck," said Victoria. "He tried rehab for about six months, but they weren’t going to be able to fix it. He actually went through a few months of depression because sports were all he ever knew and loved."

Victoria, 62, is the oldest of Jack’s four children.

Paul Robson was a rookie with the Bombers in 1964, but he said everybody playing in that era knew Jack was one of the league’s toughest linebackers. He would warm up wearing just a T-shirt, even in the coldest weather.

Jack was inducted into the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Hall of Fame in 1988 and Robson said players remembered him long after his injury too. Robson was at a Super Bowl event attended by Dick Butkus, former linebacker for the Chicago Bears. Robson mentioned to Butkus and his two brothers that they might know Jack, because they both played at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

"All of a sudden all three Butkus brothers are looking at me, and the older brother turns to Dick and says ‘Jack Delveaux. Dick, he used to kick your ass.’ If there’s any one story that you want to see how tough a player Jack Delveaux was, that was the thing that told the story for me," said Robson with a laugh.

Earlier in his career with the blue and gold, the New York Giants wanted Jack back, but the Bombers’ head coach at the time, Bud Grant, didn’t let Jack go. However, Victoria said her father just wanted to keep playing football and he loved Canada.

Jack met one of his best friends and teammate, Gord Rowland, when he was playing with the Bombers and the friendship created memories Jack and his wife, Jayne, will always cherish, said Victoria.

<p>WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES</p><p>Jack Delveaux in 1962.</p>

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

Jack Delveaux in 1962.

"He absolutely loved Canada. Gordie Rowland had a place on the Winnipeg River that he used to take my mom and dad to, and that’s actually where they want their remains to be spread," she said. "Their wishes were simple. They want their children to bring them to Canada, to the Winnipeg River. There’s a spot there they have picked out. My mom made a caveat and said the loons have to be calling. So, we have to come in May, June or July to spread the remains."

Fishing and hunting were two activities Jack liked to do up north, and a couple of reasons why he loved living in Canada so much.

As much as Jack is known for his football career, Victoria said the relationship between her father and mother is even more memorable.

Jack died on May 13, from heart failure, and just two days later, his wife, Jayne, died from lung cancer. They were married for 63 years.

Victoria said her father had dementia for the last five years of his life, but once they finally got through to him that Jayne wasn’t going to recover from her cancer, he went to their bedroom and never came out.

<p>SUPPLIED</p><p>Jack Delveaux was a linebacker with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.</p>

SUPPLIED

Jack Delveaux was a linebacker with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"When we got it through to him that momma wasn’t going to get any better, they were both here at my house and he went into the master bedroom, laid in the bed and never came out of there," she said. "Then we put my mom by him, so they were actually holding hands when he passed away — they passed away two days from each other. If a death could be beautiful, it was almost there."

Losing her father and mother within a couple of days was devastating, but Victoria said it’s been three months and she still hasn’t shed a single tear.

"I think about the 170,000-plus Americans that have died in a hospital from a virus by themselves, with nobody with them. So, I can’t be sad," she said.

Victoria added that Jack and Jayne faced many struggles throughout their lives: Jack’s career-ending injury, their health problems, Jack’s depression. However, they got through everything together. Victoria compared their relationship to the one from the movie The Notebook, and she joked about writing the sequel based off her mom and dad’s relationship.

Jack will be remembered for his athletic abilities, toughness on the field, but also his kind heart off the field. Following his football injury, Jack ended up working as a regional sales manager in Texas, selling heavy machinery for 32 years. Everything he knew about the sales business, Victoria soaked up like a sponge before she started working in sales too.

"I have been a top performer in my business for 35 years. Everything that I’ve learned, I’ve learned from my dad. About being patient, about being kind, about being an advocate, being interested. My whole sales career, he was very instrumental in it."

Even after football, Jack found success and always wanted what was best for his family. He sold his home in Texas and split the savings between Victoria and her three younger siblings.

"He loved life, he loved football, he loved Canada, he loved friends and he certainly loved his wife and his children. He was a wonderful man."

kellen.taniguchi@freepress.mb.ca

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