Michael J. Delo Memorial Scholarship
Michael was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 12th, 1984, which is also President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. How appropriate this was for a boy who developed a life-long love for history and politics. Michael was born to parents who loved him unconditionally. Believe it or not, his mother did not expect her life to change that much except for maybe a little less sleep. But Vicki can describe the exact moment that a nurse handed her the most beautiful baby in the world and that was it. Life as she knew it changed forever. Mike was overjoyed at the thought of having a son. Almost every night the two of them would fall asleep together with Michael on Mike’s chest listening to the Dr. Seuss story, Green Eggs and Ham. But Vicki knew they had to leave Pittsburgh or risk the possibility of Michael becoming a Steeler’s fan. So two weeks after Christine was born the family moved to Marlton. As they settled in and Michael began to talk he had an endearing phrase that he said whenever someone called him. That phrase was, “Tumming, tum-ming…munk-hey-dee-yo tumming,” which meant, “Coming, coming… Michael Delo coming.” It was one of many keepsake memories that they shared as they grew up as a family.
There were soccer games, baseball games, swimming at Chartwell, school responsibilities, visits with the relatives, weekends at Deep Creek, backyard barbecues, and summers in Ocean City. Many of these occasions as well as holidays were spent with Michael’s beloved cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. They were the happiest of times complete with fireworks, egg hunts, games of Password, arts & crafts, and songs performed in a show for the adults. More family togetherness was experienced on trips to historic places in Massachusetts and Williamsburg, Virginia and fun vacations at Disney World, Hershey Park, Niagara Falls, on a New Year’s Eve cruise to Mexico with his extended family, and Penn State football games including the 2006 Orange Bowl. One thing everyone knew was that Michael loved spending time with his family.
In one way their family wasn’t like most families—brother and sister rivalries were almost non-existent. Michael ADORED his sister Christine. As a toddler he called her “Ducky,” and she called him “Guckle.” Their bond is incredibly close and they remained best friends from then on. They came to rely on each other as an advisor, confidante, and even a fashion consultant. It was obvious to everyone that Christine adored her brother and that Michael loved his sister and his family.
Mike and Vicki waited for the expected teenage rebellions but these rarely, if ever, occurred. Michael seemed to be the glue that bound this tight family. In high school, Michael began to deal with several health issues that caused him to become more introverted. He was a student who loved to learn, and he was inducted into two honor societies. A beloved teacher inspired Michael to dream of being a history teacher and Michael began to imagine his future. Those who knew him could see a greatness in him that was ready to shine for the rest of the world to see. And as graduation neared there was no question what college path he would choose… Since both parents were alums, Penn State was in his DNA. And through all these years it was clear that Michael loved his family.
Wow… Penn State… the awakening of the hero. He loved Penn State. He gained confidence, his mind expanded, his perception of the world grew and he knew then that he was capable of making a difference. Michael knew he wanted to teach, to give the gift of knowledge, this also was something he had inherited. His interests expanded to History, Social Studies and Politics. He excelled in all areas as a scholar, but it was always apparent that he loved his family. Penn State… Some of you may know… is not all about academics… Michael experienced ALL that Penn State is. The parties, the friends, the Football Games, tailgating—they were his element. But Michael aspired to do more, his sense of fairness led him to become a referee for intramural sports, and his compassion led him to participate in THON 2005, where he was proud to dance for 48 hours straight in the largest charity event in the world run totally by students. That year they raised $4.1 million to benefit children diagnosed with cancer. Isn’t it a sad twist that two years later Michael himself was fighting his own battle against cancer? Mike and Vicki were at Rec Hall to support him and their hearts burst with pride. Christine was there for him too, and he reveled in her adoration because he loved his sister as he did his family.
Michael pledged Sigma Nu (his Grandfather’s fraternity) where his quest to make a difference blossomed. Becoming a brother in the Sigma Nu fraternity was a turning point in Michael’s life. We hope that his “brothers” understand how very important they are to him. We bleieve that his years in the fraternity were the best times of his life. At Sigma Nu he found camaraderie and fun. Michael was given the nickname “Cheese” by his fraternity brothers. He was serious about keeping the Sigma Nu customs secret so whenever he was asked questions regarding his nickname or other fraternity traditions he would always say, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” He was, however, allowed to share these things with his fellow Sigma Nu brother, his grandfather and this served to strengthen their connection. He began to have political aspirations and decided to run for one of the fraternity officer positions. Michael took his fraternity responsibilities quite seriously, especially when he was treasurer. Eventually he was elected president, or Eminent Commander as the brotherhood prefers to call it. He had many ideas and plans that he hoped to implement as Eminent Commander. Michael enjoyed his trips to Sigma Nu events and chapter houses around the country and in Canada. He was devastated when he realized that due to his illness he would have to resign the position a couple months before his term was up. And of course Michael enjoyed the fraternity parties! In fact when he was hospitalized he was asked to drink a protein supplement several times a day. This was difficult for him because of the bad taste. So to motivate him, his mom would begin singing the drinking song: “Here’s to Cheese, to Cheese, to Cheese! Here’s to Cheese who’s with us tonight…” For those of you who know the rest of the words, I’m sure you can imagine why his mom would stop singing at this point. You must know, though, that he loved his brothers and he loved his family.
In the cruel irony of ironies, after giving his all for children with cancer and getting injured in a charity run or Crohns disease, Michael was diagnosed with a very aggressive and rare form of Lymphoma. But through it all he fought very hard, kept an amazing sense of humor and showed the patience of a saint. As always he was very introspective and he thought about God and his religious views. He talked about his future and things that he would have to know as an adult. When things got tough he was selfless and apologized to his family for putting them through such a stressful ordeal, because we know he loved his family.
Michael never stopped fighting this disease. He was surprised to be asked, but he gave permission for life-saving interventions less than two hours before he died. He was talking with his family and enjoying their company. He then decided to take a nap with his mom, dad and sister resting in the room, too. So on Tuesday, May 29th (his beloved cousin Amber’s birthday, as well as that of yet another president, John F. Kennedy), with no pain and his family at his side, Michael called to God, “Tumming, tum-ming…munk-hey-dee-yo tumming,” and he joined those loved ones who passed before. And he will wait patiently for us to rejoin him. Because you know he loves his friends, he loves his family and he knows that we love him… so very much… our hero… every bit of JFK or an Abraham Lincoln in our hearts and minds.
The Michael J. Delo Memorial Scholarship Fund was established to help deserving students from our Tri-County Area receive a Penn State Education.