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Floyd Delaney, Who Embraced Judaism Late in Life, Succumbs at 80

Floyd Delaney, a pioneer in the air-conditioning trade who embraced Judaism in the final years of his life — flying to Israel during the first Gulf War to demonstrate his support for the Jewish state — died on September 2 in Summit, N.J. He was 80.

He had been in remission from leukemia and was readmitted to the hospital two weeks before his death with back pains, said his daughter, Cathy Wilson.

Delaney made his mark professionally with his mechanical engineering company, Air Con, in the early 1950s as one of the first to pioneer air-conditioning for use in private homes and industrial buildings. At the time of his death, Delaney was chairman and chief executive of Air Con, headquartered in Mountainside, N.J. His sons Douglas and John are the company’s vice presidents, and his other daughter, Thorne, is the company’s controller.

But it was Judaism that sustained him with purpose and vitality in his final years, his son Douglas told the Forward.

Born an Episcopalian, Delaney had come to embrace Judaism late in life, after learning about the religion from a group of Jewish laboratory scientists. To demonstrate his identification with the Jewish faith and its followers, Delaney traveled to Tel Aviv in 1991 during the onset of the Gulf War, in effect presenting himself as a target for Saddam Hussein’s Scud missile attacks.

His identification with Judaism deepened after that trip. On a subsequent flight to Israel in 1994, he met a Jewish woman named Ariela Kisch. That same year, he converted to Judaism, at age 71, and married her.

Delaney conscientiously observed the commandments and precepts of the Torah, said Rabbi Sol Roth of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation where Delaney was a member. Delaney also befriended Prime Minister Sharon, who, his wife told the Forward, recognized his identification with the State of Israel and called him a “true Zionist.”

“What he loved most was Judaism’s philosophy and values,” she said. “He would study the Mishna and say, ‘Everything from the law comes from Judaism.’”

Delaney was born on January 18, 1923, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and spent his early childhood in Queens, N.Y., before moving to Scotch Plains, N.J. His family passed through the Great Depression with little money because of his father’s ill health. Delaney began working at age 13, taking a job selling beer-tap systems shortly after he finished high school and later going on to found Air Con.

Delaney’s first wife, June, died in 1980. He is survived by his second wife, Ariela, two sons, two daughters and 10 grandchildren.

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