May 28, 2009
Some comments about the passing of
A.A.'s legendary Geraldine D.
I never expected to write a book about an early woman A.A. pioneer. But when I first started writing about the spiritual roots of early A.A., I discussed with Bill P. (now at Hazelden) the plans I had to write a book about the women pioneers--people such as Anne Smith, Henrietta Seiblerling, Clarace Williams, and so on. Not too long ago, Bill apparently picked up on the idea and said Hazelden was proceeding with a broader project. One to which I contributed on the subject of Henrietta Seiberling. The book will be released soon.
But I had no contact with the actual women AAs of the early days. Then a grateful mother of a recovered AA asked me to write a book about Mrs. Geraldine O. Delaney. I went to Little Hill-Alina Lodge at Blairstown, New Jersey and was given the run of the place. Mrs. Delaney had retired as founder and CEO emeritus, but she was very much present. I interviewed her in her home and at the Lodge. And I discovered she was something special.
Mrs. D. was then 90 years old, 70 years a tireless worker in the public service field, and 50 years sober in A.A. She had known Bill and Lois Wilson well. She knew Dr. Bob too. She was enthusiastic about A.A., the Big Book, and the Twelve Steps. And she had founded Little Hill Foundation to put together some unique ideas in the treatment of alcoholics, polyaddicted, and their families.
Gerry's program was tough. It was long-term, non-permissive, structured, residential, and permitted no fraternization. The Lodge has helped thousands, and it recently hired a new executive director who had the opportunity to get to know Mrs. D., talk to her, absorb her unique ideas, and get the continuity of leadership well under way before Mrs. D. died. I have met him, and he has been tireless in assuming his new leadership post.
Back to Mrs. D., she had been given applause by two Presidents, by two Popes, by countless leaders in the recovery field, and by the many A.A. audiences before whom she spoke. She believed in no-nonsense treatment and the "tincture of time" which was an essential ingredient in getting the cobwebs out and helping the afflicted and their families to learn a new healthy way of life in sobriety.
When I completed the book HOPE!:The Story of Geraldine D., Alina Lodge, and Recovery, we had no difficulty in securing the endorsement of Mrs. D.'s work by Betty Ford, Dr. Abraham Twerski, and Col. Mel Schulstad.
I was and am grateful to have met and talked at length with this unusual pioneer before her death. She accorded me every courtesy during my week's visit at Alina Lodge. I shall miss her.
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