ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

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ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby emwcee » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:45 pm

I am very pleased to announce our next edition of "Ask the . . . " in this case, it's "Ask the Checkers." I am very pleased to welcome Joe and Norma Delia to our forum. Norma has agreed to be a part of our forum for a few weeks to answer any questions we may have. We are going to begin on November 11, and we will continue through December 4. That will give Norma plenty of time to answer our questions.

I've asked the moderators to lock this topic for now. Starting November 11, the topic will be unlocked, and you can begin asking your questions.

I was privileged to "interview" Norma (via Facebook) and write an article about Joe and Norma for Iditablog. Unfortunately, Iditablog is currently having server problems and can't be accessed, so I am reproducing the article here, as an introduction to the thread.


Joe and Norma Delia: Thanks for the Memories

Mention Skwentna and most fans immediately think of Joe and Norma Delia. For many years Joe has served as postmaster of Skwentna (population 75 in the winter and 250 in the summer, according to Zuma’s Paw Prints). Norma joined him in 1983. The two of them are the “heart and soul” of the Skwentna checkpoint, a place you can only reach by airplane, boat, snow machine or (of course) dogsled.

For years Joe was the main checker and Norma did all the menu planning, cooking and cleaning. The Delias “retired” after the 25th running of the race, but still remain at the center of the action, assisted by Cyndy Fritts and her family, Todd and Scott Silver, the “Skwentna Sweeties” from Eagle, and a crew from Tacoma, Washington. Without the 30-plus volunteers, the checkpoint would not be the same, Norma said.

“We have developed some very strong bonds with a whole lot of people we otherwise would have never met,” Norma said. “The friendships stand the passing of time. How many can say Donna deVarona has visited their home?”

Norma said her most vivid memory was the year that Susan Butcher had a moose go through her team on the Rabbit Lake Trail. “It was heartbreaking to see an old friend have this happen,” Norma recalled. “She would only scratch to checker Joe, and I can still see them sitting, hugging and crying together.”

Her favorite memory was the year that Dodge gave a truck away to the first musher to Skwentna. The women volunteers formed themselves into a dog team—complete with sled and a young boy as the musher.

The race has changed through the years, Norma said. She’s thankful for the well-groomed trail and the excellent dog care in today’s race, and seeing the second-generation mushers on the trail makes her smile. But sometimes she misses the “old days.”

“Personally, I loved the older races when there was so much anticipation and not so much instant information,” she said. “You had to wait for the evening news to know what was going on, and we’d gather around the TV to watch. Heck, for some years we didn’t even have a TV and radio was our means. In the early years the race was in here for four to five days; now it’s gone in two hours.”

Sadly, this will be the last year the Delias will be at Skwentna. Several factors have contributed to their decision. “Aging isn’t conducive to living this life-style, as nothing is easy to keep things going,” she said. They’re looking forward to being on the road system again.

Living at Skwentna and being an integral part of the race has been like watching a part of a small history being unfolded right before their eyes, Norma said. To the young mushers she says, “If you see an ‘old timer’ out on the trail, thank them for all of the improvements they contributed over the years . . . and be kind to them. Without all the effort of those who have walked before you, your dreams may not have been possible. Let’s not forget ‘our’ history of the Last Great Race.”

Image
Photo by Kristin Bacon. Used with permission.

Image
Photo by Sara Michaud. Used with permission.
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby MelanieGouldFanBrian » Mon Nov 07, 2011 7:22 am

Cool. Thanks to Heidi for contacting Norma to see if she would be up to doing this for us.
Thanks Marcia for taking the ball and running with it and getting it all set up.
And especially Thanks to Norma for agreeing during a very busy and stressful time to do this Ask for us.

agcthankyou5.gif
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby Moose » Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:15 pm

Hi Norma! Hi Joe! Thanks for stopping in.

I'd love to pour you some coffee, serve up some pie, and listen to your stories of the trail well into the early hours. Could you start by letting us know what brought you to Skwentna in the first place and what your plans are now?
Wag more, bark less.
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby Norma » Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:20 pm

Hi All:

I'm just checking to see if I'm in the right spot. :) Looking forward to doing this with you. As you may have heard, I may be a little slow getting the answers up but I promise to do the very best I can.

Norma
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby jplife » Thu Nov 10, 2011 10:42 pm

:D Hi Norma

How are you doing?
Question Do I understand right that you are from Canada.How did you end up where you are today.?
Have a great and wonderful day. :D



Pete
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby fladogfan » Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:46 am

Thanks for being here.
Everytime I look at your photos above, your smiles make me smile.
When you move 'to the road system' where will that be? Still in Alaska?
All my children have four feet and fur.
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby Norma » Fri Nov 11, 2011 2:27 pm

Hi fladogfan:

Yes, I think getting Joe off his hill will be an effort but we don't dare suggest he leave his beloved Alaska! :) He has lived here since 1948 in the bush and he totally hates the idea of city living. It seems like he came to an area of old-timers who, for the first time in his life, were people who treated him like an equal. He was just 18 and truly the kid who worked around the clock helping others. In return, he found a "family" and grew to love them all dearly. I'm thinking it will probably be Anchorage but will look at areas in the Valley as well, and hopefully find a spot that would give us a bit of land and no neighbors looking right in our windows. :)

Thanks for asking.

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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby Norma » Fri Nov 11, 2011 2:46 pm

Hi Pete:

Yes, I was born in Verdun, Quebec, just outside of Montreal. Later we moved to Hamilton, Ontario...and when I was 16, my Dad accepted a job in California. Terrible time to move a kid since I had gone all thru school with the same kids and putting me into a completely foreign school where I knew no one!! Turned into a not so bad experience when the kids started asking me some pretty dumb questions. :) I walked in my first day in skirt, sweater and bobby socks and saddle shoes. The Calif. girls had on hose, low heels and carried purses that held their make-up. I guess I really looked like odd man out. The questions were how did I like paved highways and roads after we left Canada...like we got to the border on dirt roads. Someone said I should telephone them and I was given "instructions" on how to use a phone. Of course, the igloo question was in there as well. Come to find out, adults were asking my Dad the same things at his work. We found it all quite funny.

I raised my family in Lakewood, Calif and once they were on their own, I ran away from home. :) Came to Alaska where my daughter was serving in the Air Force. Met Joe at the Sears Mall one day while on an outting with my 2 year old grandson. Sneaky Joe used the kiddo to strike up a conversation with me. We wrote to each other for a year and then he asked me to come out for a fishing trip. I just never left!! :)

My life since moving to the bush has just been like a fairy tale. It has just become time to move back into the "real world" again since we are both getting too old to maintain this lifestyle. Nothing comes easy. Will be nice to just flip a switch for lights and turn up a thermostat for heat.

I seem to have lost your question on this page, so I hope that's what you asked. :) If not, ask again.

Thanks.

Norma

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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby Norma » Fri Nov 11, 2011 2:53 pm

Hi Moose.

I think I answered you in Pete's question. My son and his family live in Hudson, Maine. Close to you?

Happy to be doing this. Someday, you'll all have to let me know who YOU are!

Great rest of the day to you.

Norma
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby emwcee » Fri Nov 11, 2011 6:33 pm

Hi Norma,

I'm curious to know what life is like living off the road system. I'm a city girl through and through. I love to be able to walk to the nearby dairy store to get milk and eggs, and to go visit coffeeshops and participate in varied community activities on the weekends. I can't imagine even living in the country, let alone off the road system. How often do you get visitors? How often do you get to town, and what are the main means of transportation for getting to and from your place? What happens if you get sick and need to see the doctor?

What are the joys and rewards of living in Skwentna?

emwcee (you know me as Marcia Claesson on Facebook :D )
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