Sunday, July 14, 2024

Remembering Pat Delair, 61, former city councilwoman who fought cancer and added years to her life

Pat Delair and grandson, Noah
Pat Delair and grandson, Noah. Photo courtesy of Chris Delair.

Many people remember Pat Delair from her grassroots Wilmington City Council campaign in 2006. She knocked on thousands of doors in order to meet the people of Wilmington and learn their needs so she’d know what to focus on once she was in office.

Ms. Delair was up against a well-funded opponent and she beat the odds, winning the seat she served in from 2006 to 2007.

Beating the odds was something Ms. Delair was good at, according to those who knew her best. She did it for city council, then again with cancer.

The words “strong” and “supportive” are used to describe Ms. Delair, but no description is used as often as the word “fighter.”

Ms. Delair died May 3, 2015, at the age of 61. Her son Chris officially announced her passing on Sept. 7, 2015, after giving his family time to grieve privately.

Ms. Delair was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, shortly before she was voted onto city council, according to her best friend from seventh grade, Dori Hoffman-Latter. Hoffman-Latter said she and Ms. Delair spent decades together and were as close as sisters. In grade school they’d spend the entire day together at school and the entire night giggling on the phone, baffling others by never running out of things to talk about. Later, they traveled many places together and continued their long phone conversations, although, Hoffman-Latter laughed as she said many of their stories aren’t exactly “G-rated.”

During the year Ms. Delair served on the council, politics were the main focus of conversations between the friends, Hoffman-Latter said. Ms. Delair put a lot of effort into learning Wilmington politics and spoke often of the issues facing the community.

Dori, Pat and Pat's sister, Ivy. Photo courtesy of Chris Delair.
Dori, Pat and Dori’s sister, Ivy. Photo courtesy of Chris Delair.

Ms. Delair gave all of herself to the council while she served, Hoffman-Latter said. In 2007, Ms. Delair decided to shift her focus to fighting her diagnosis. According to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, less than half of women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer live past five years. Ms. Delair lived more than seven.

“She was always willing to try things other people hadn’t tried,” Hoffman-Latter said.

She first went to Florida to try the raw food approach known as Hippocrates, Hoffman-Latter said. She learned to prepare raw food and even became an educator to help others fighting their own battles. Next, Ms. Delair went north to New York for an experimental approach that required her to wake up in the middle of the night to swallow 20 pills, then wake up three hours later to take 20 more. Back at home, she also tried holistic treatments, including acupuncture.

“I absolutely think it helped her,” Hoffman-Latter said.

The proof of this, Hoffman-Latter said, was in the number of years Ms. Delair added to her life. In fact, Ms. Delair was on disability and was almost taken off because she had a terminal illness and had surpassed the normal timeline. Hoffman-Latter said she was allowed to stay on disability after confirming she was indeed battling a terminal illness. She wasn’t just going to let the cancer take her, though.

Ms. Delair didn’t let anyone else determine what she did or thought, and that included religion and the way she and her son approached it.

Chris Delair attended Catholic school when he was younger and said Ms. Delair taught Sunday school and raised him Irish Catholic. While at school, he had a disagreement with the teacher about the Eucharist being the body of Christ. He thought it was symbolic, but the teacher claimed “the bread literally turned into flesh once it went in your mouth.”

“I decided at that moment I wasn’t Catholic any more. I was so scared to tell my mom, but I went home and told her,” Chris Delair said. “She said, ‘Yea, me either.’”

He said he knew when he went to his mother, she would be loving, compassionate and tolerant.

Pat Delair and grandson Milo. Photo courtesy of Chris Delair.
Pat Delair and grandson Milo. Photo courtesy of Chris Delair.

“My mother was someone I learned from, learned with, leaned on and depended on for guidance when making decisions,” Chris Delair said.

Throughout the years, Ms. Delair went into remission several times, Hoffman-Latter said, and each time the cancer came back a little quicker.

“She was such a fighter. Even at the end she wasn’t ready to throw in the towel,” Hoffman-Latter said. “She said, ‘I’ll know when I’m ready.’”

In the end, Hoffman-Latter said, Ms. Delair left on her own terms.

“Pat Delair’s passing is a loss to this community. It was a pleasure to serve with Pat, who contributed greatly to this city in her capacity on council, as well as her work to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. She was a passionate leader and a friend and she will be missed.” -Mayor Bill Saffo

Ms. Delair is survived by her son, Chris; grandsons, Noah and Milo; brother, Daniel Sawyer; sister, Amy Sawyer Bouchard; and best friend, Dori Hoffman-Latter.

Before her passing, Ms. Delair expressed her wishes to have a memorial service held in Wilmington, according to her son. At this time, nothing specific has been planned.

To view the full list of Port City Daily obituaries, click here.

Amanda Thames is the obituary writer for Port City Daily. Reach her at ​(910) 772-6319 or

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