Delker, Ardella Vernell "Del" (1924–2018)
By Dan Shultz
Dan Shultz, emeritus professor of music, Walla Walla University, has researched and written extensively about Seventh-day Adventist music history and musicians. His publications include A Great Tradition–a history of music at Walla Walla University, and the Adventist Musicians Biographical Resource–an encyclopedia with biographies of over 1100 Adventist musicians. He founded the International Adventist Musicians Association, serving as its president for ten years and editing its publications and website for over thirty years. Shultz and his wife, Carolyn (nee Stevens), live in College Place, Washington.
First Published: January 29, 2020
Ardella Vernell1 Delker, a vocal soloist and recording artist known professionally as Del Delker, was associated with the Voice of Prophecy radio broadcast and evangelistic ministry for more than fifty years.
Del Delker was born in Java, South Dakota, on October 21, 1924, the younger of two children born to Andrew and Martha Hartmann Delker.2 Her parents divorced before she was born. With the coming of the Great Depression, Martha Delker and her two children, along with her two sisters and a brother-in-law, embarked for California in 1931. When the money saved for the trip ran out in Yakima, Washington, the family worked in a cannery until they had earned enough money to continue to Oakland, California, where they settled.3
Martha Delker was a Seventh-day Adventist, and Del Delker attended church school for four years. Upset by the rules in the church school and the legalism she had noted in some members of the church, Delker persuaded her mother to let her attend public high school. After graduating, she worked for the Pacific Greyhound Bus company.4
A musical child from her earliest years, Delker loved to sing. When she was three, Delker wandered off on her own, much to the alarm of her mother who frantically began an unsuccessful search for her. At the height of despair, Martha Delker received a call from the manager of the local bank who asked her whether she was missing something. When she responded in the affirmative, he reportedly said, “Well, she’s down here, standing in front of the bank, singing for a living, and people are putting money in her hot little fists!”5
As she reached her teenage years Delker aspired to sing with a dance band, an ultimate experience for a singer of popular music in that era. Although that dream was not realized, she did enjoy singing popular music as part of a women's group that performed occasionally in local United Service Organizations (USO) clubs during World War II, entertaining men in the armed forces.6
From the Quiet Hour to the Voice of Prophecy
Delker did not join the Seventh-day Adventist church until March 1947 when she was converted in meetings held by J. L. Tucker of the Quiet Hour radio ministry. She began to sing for the Quiet Hour evangelistic meetings and broadcast. At a camp meeting held in Lodi, California, that summer, she sang “The Love of God,” a piece that especially resonated with her spiritual experience. The attention and praise she received from those in attendance caused her to become concerned about her ego. At an evening visit to a vineyard near the camp meeting, she prayed about it and gained a sense that God would help her remain humble.7
Shortly after that camp meeting, the Voice of Prophecy (VOP), located in Los Angeles, California, invited Delker to join the ministry as a secretary and to sing occasionally.8 Reluctant due to her lack of formal musical training, she refused the offer three times before finally accepting. Initially, she was asked to sing for the broadcast so infrequently that the she considered leaving. At the time of her arrival in September 1947, the VOP music department was in the middle of a turmoil that had started four years earlier and had just led to the release of three quartet members that summer. It was not until 1950, after the hiring of Wayne Hooper as music coordinator for the broadcast in 1949, that Delker began singing regularly. In 1951, she was included for the first time on a record with the VOP King’s Heralds quartet.9
While Delker had natural talent, she could not read music and relied totally on her ear and memory for singing and making harmony. Hooper became her first music teacher and helped her become a knowledgeable musician and capable sight reader, able to be a meaningful participant in ensemble singing. Near the end of his career she became his assistant and secretary.10
In 1951, Leona Glidden Running, who had become acquainted with Delker while working in the Foreign Language Department of the VOP, invited Delker to travel with her for a five-week trip to Europe that would include visits in seven countries, including an Adventist Youth Congress in Paris in July. At first, she was thrilled with the invitation, but upon reflection she realized she did not have enough money for the trip. H.M.S. Richards and his wife, Mabel, had become concerned over the heavy commitments Delker was keeping and the need for a break. Aware of her financial need, they quietly raised money from her associates and friends so that she could make the trip.11
It proved to be a marvelous experience for both Running and Delker, one that Running wrote about in the popular book, 36 Days and a Dream, a 1953 Senior MV Book Club selection. An excerpt was also printed in the Youth’s Instructor of February 3, 1953.12
In 1953, Delker entered Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, in Michigan to pursue a degree in religion.13 Her absence from the program and the VOP’s desire to have her closer to the studio led her to transfer to La Sierra College (now La Sierra University) in Riverside, about sixty miles west of Los Angeles, in 1954. As her studies continued, she also maintained a busy performance schedule, often singing for the broadcast, in churches, and other venues on weekends, and at camp meetings during the summers. She completed her studies and graduated with a B.A. in religion in 1958.14
The VOP, Evangelism, and Camp Meetings
Because of the popularity of the broadcast and many invitations for the VOP to present programs at summer camp meetings, two groups were created: an A group that included H.M.S Richards and the King’s Heralds quartet, and a B group that initially included J. Orville Iversen, Delker, and organists Brad and Olive Braley. H.M.S. Richards, Jr., later replaced Iversen and, in the summer of 1967, invited the Wedgwood Trio, a bluegrass-style group from Southern Missionary College (now Southern Adventist University) to join him and Delker on their camp meeting tours. While this decision proved to be very controversial with some of their hosts, Delker recalled that summer’s travels as an enjoyable experience, noting the trio’s effectiveness in reaching the young.15
During Delker’s many years with the VOP she traveled hundreds of thousands of miles, by road and air, in the U.S. and abroad, singing on behalf of the VOP, and “most importantly, the Lord,” as she often observed. Along the way, she sang and recorded music in fifteen different languages, appeared on the Faith for Today television broadcast, and learned to face the challenges that come with being a celebrity.16
Although Delker’s earliest wish was to marry a minister and assist in his ministry, her success and celebrity became impediments. The problem revealed itself after she first started working at the VOP, when, in her role as a secretary, she developed a close relationship with another worker that abruptly ended when her singing increased in frequency and she became more than a secretary. He was more interested in marrying a secretary than a celebrity. Over the years her visibility led to a cascade of letters, notes, and poems, some sent by well-meaning persons who were convinced that she was the answer to their prayers. Many more were of dubious nature and quickly discarded.17
In 1982, when the VOP music department was disbanded and the quartet released, a move she protested, Delker was invited to continue as part of the broadcast.18 At that time, she approached Hugh Martin, nationally famous popular composer and songwriter from an earlier era who had recently joined the church, to serve as her accompanist. They worked together in evangelism for most of the 1980s. In 1999, he accompanied her for a recording of a rewrite of his signature song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” changing “Merry” to “Blessed.”19
Beginning in 1969, Delker had a series of operations over three decades for problems related to her hips and knees that made walking and travel painful. While the operations were not fully successful, she continued to perform beyond her retirement, despite ongoing physical challenges.20
Although she officially retired in January 1990, Delker occasionally continued to sing and travel until 2007. On June 30, 2002, she was honored for her 55 years of service when she joined with many of her friends from over the years to tape a video program called Del and Friends. It was a fitting tribute to her and to her ability to work with so many other friends and musicians in selfless Christian ministry.
Delker and Wayne Hooper traveled with VOP groups to Adventist colleges and universities in 2004 to join with campus musicians in celebrating the VOP’s 75th anniversary.21 For over fifty years she had performed many of Hooper’s arrangements, and her last public performance was at his funeral in 2007.22 Del was residing in Porterville, California, when she died on January 31, 2018, at age 93.23
In her decades of ministry with the Voice of Prophecy, and through more than forty albums of recorded music,24 Del Delker inspired listeners with her rich contralto voice. “The Love of God,” her signature song from the start at the VOP, perhaps best epitomized both the message of her music and the heart-touching quality with which she sang it.
Ancestry.com. U.S., Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, 1847-Current [database on-line]. Lehi, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011. Accessed May 19, 2019. https://ancestry.com.
California. Alameda County. 1940 United States Census. Digital images. Ancestry.com, May 19, 2019, http://ancestry.com.
Chavez, Stephen. “I Know He Watches Me.” ARH, April 14, 2009. Accessed March 22, 2019, https://www.adventistreview.org/2009-1511-16.
Delker, Del and Ken Wade. Del Delker: Her Story as Told to Ken Wade. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2002.
Kellner, Mark. “Adventist Hugh Martin, Composer and Del Delker’s Accompanist, Dies.” ARH, April 19, 2011. Accessed March 22, 2019. https://www.adventistreview.org/archive-4325.
Kovacs, Debbonnaire. “Del Delker-Ninety-one-Years of Song (So Far!).” Adventist Today, October 29, 2015. Accessed March 22, 2019, https://atoday.org/del-delker-ninety-one-years-of-song-so-far/.
Running, Leona Glidden. 36 Days and a Dream. Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1952.
South Dakota. Walworth County. 1930 United States Census. Digital images. Ancestry.com, May 19, 2019, http://ancestry.com.
Stotz, Michele. “Voice of Prophecy Soloist Passes to Her Rest.” ARH, January 31, 2018. Accessed March 22, 2019, https://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/story5823-voice-of-prophecy-soloist-del-delker-passes-to-her-rest.
“The Voice of Prophecy, Diamond Jubilee Celebration.” Printed program possessed by author.
Del Delker Discography
Delker, Del. 40th Anniversary Album. Voice of Prophecy, 1980. Audio cassette.
_____. Aleluya! Ya el Hogar! Chapel Records CRS-1521, 1976. LP.
_____. A Mi Me Amo Jesus. Chapel Records, 1981. LP.
_____. Come on Down. Chapel Records S-5291, 1976. LP.
_____. Con Eterna Gratitud: Tesoros II. La Voz de la Esperanza, 1997. CD.
_____. Del Delker Sings. Chapel Records LP-602, n.d. LP.
_____. Del Decker Sings Songs for Happy Children. Chapel Records S 7007, 1975. LP.
_____. Del Delker Sings the Folk Sound! Hallelujah, Home at Last! Chapel Records, 1974. LP.
_____. Devotional Melodies. Cathedral Records LP 502, n.d. LP.
_____. El Senor Me Ha Tocado. Chapel Records S 1512, 1970. LP.
_____. Forever Grateful. Del Delker, 1996. Audio cassette and CD.
_____. Have Yourself a Blessed Little Christmas. Voice of Prophecy, 2001. CD.
_____. Heaven on My Mind. Voice of Prophecy, 1999. CD.
_____. His Love. Hosanna House Records, 2000. Audio cassette.
_____. Lonely Voices, 25th Anniversary Album. Chapel Records, 1973. LP.
_____. The Love of God. Chapel Records LP-5043 and ST 043, 1963. LP.
_____. The Love of God. Christian Faith Recordings DD-7039, n.d. LP.
_____. Migrating Birds. Chapel Records S-5201, 1972. LP
_____. Most Requested Songs. Chapel/Bridge Records, 1985. Audio cassette.
_____. My God Is a Real God. Chapel Records LP5-118 and ST-118, 1967. LP.
_____. My Jesus, I Love Thee. Chapel Records R-1224, n.d. EP.
_____. Never Give Up! Chapel Records S5266, 1975. LP
_____. The Night Watch. Chapel Records ST-145, n.d. LP.
_____. On His Mind. Chapel Records, 1981. LP.
_____. A Quiet Time. Chapel Records S-5313, 1977. LP.
_____. Reflections. Chapel Records 5356, 1979. LP.
_____. Sings It Took a Miracle. Chapel Records, LP 1507. LP.
_____. What Will It Be to See Jesus? Chapel Records ST-104, 1965. LP.
_____. What Will It Be to See Jesus? W & G (Australia) WG25/5076, 1967. LP.
_____. Worship Time: Hymns & Classics. Del Delker, 1990. Audio cassette.
Delker, Del, and Debby Wade. Be Still & Know. Voice of Prophecy, 2009. CD.
Delker, Del, and the King’s Heralds. Silent Night: Best-Loved Carols. Chapel Records, 1950. LP.
Decker, Del. There’s No One Just Like You. Voice of Prophecy, 2000. CD.
Delker, Del, and Bob Seamount. Day by Day: A Duet Album. Chapel Records LP 5011, 1960. LP.
Decker, Del and Bob Seamount. Del Decker and Bob Seamount, Duet Album. Chapel Records LP-1231, n.d. LP.
Delker, Del, and Brad Braley. God Understands. Chapel Records LP 5006, 1960. LP.
_____. He Touched Me. Chapel Records S5184, 1970. LP.
_____. Heavenly Sunlight. Voice of Prophecy Recordings, 1960. LP.
Delker, Del. My God Is a Real God. Chapel Records LP5-118 and ST-118, 1967. LP.
Delker, Del, and Calvin Taylor. Being Me. Hosanna House, 1980. Cassette.
Delker, Del and Jim Teel. All About Love. Hosanna House Records, 1977. LP.
Delker, Del and the Wedgewood Trio. Joyful. Chapel Records ST-125, 1967. LP.
Delker, Del, Brad Braley, Maurita Phillips-Thornburgh, Dorothy Remsen, and Wayne Hooper. Ten Thousand Angels. Chapel/Bridge Records ST-093, 1965. LP.
Delker, Del, Brad Braley, and Olive Braley. The Lord's Prayer. Chapel Records LP 5065, 1963. LP.
Delker, Del, Brad Braley, and the King's Heralds. Our Prayer. Chapel Records, 1958. LP.
Delker, Del, Brad Braley, Olive Braley, Gordon Henderson, and Phyllis Henderson. Sunshine of God's Love. Voice of Prophecy Recordings, 1970. LP.
Decker, Del, Brad Braley, the King’s Heralds, and the Hymnsingers. It Took a Miracle. Chapel Records LP5-080 and ST-080, 1964. LP.
Delker, Del, Dick LaJoie, and Norm Nelson. God so Loved the World. Voice of Prophecy Recordings, 1970. LP.
Delker, Del, Gordon Henderson, and Phyllis Henderson. Good News, Chariot's a-Comin'. Voice of Prophecy Recordings, 1960. LP.
Delker, Del, Tom Keene, and Paul Stilwell. Quiet Time with Del. Voice of Prophecy, 2006. CD.
Delker, Del, Wayne Hooper, and Hugh Martin. Del & Friends. Hosanna House, Voice of Prophecy, 2002. CD.
King's Heralds, Bob Seamount, Del Delker, and Brad Brailey. I Believe. Chapel Records ST 031, 1960. LP.
King's Heralds, Del Delker, and Brad Braley. A Boy Named David. Chapel Records LP 7001, 1960. LP.
King's Heralds and Del Delker. Garden of Prayer. Chapel Records, 1950. LP.
_____. Golden Moment. Chapel Records LP 5007, 1958. LP.
_____. Hold the Fort. Cathedral Records, n. d. EP.
_____. I'll Live for Him. Voice of Prophecy Recordings VP-101, 1960. EP.
_____. Jesus Is Coming Again: An Album of Songs of The Second Advent. Chapel Records, LP 1509, n.d. LP.
_____. King’s Heralds and Del Delker. Cathedral Records 103, 1950. LP.
_____. Song of Heaven & Homeland: And Other Sacred Songs from the Voice of Prophecy. Chapel Records, 1950. LP.
King's Heralds, Del Delker, Beth Thurston, and Brad Braley. Songs for Sabbath: Thirteen Favorite Gospel Songs and Hymns. Chapel Records, 1950. LP.
King’s Heralds, Del Delker, and Brad Braley. Come, Children, Join to Sing! Chapel Records ST-7005, n.d. LP
King’s Heralds, Del Delker, and Jim Teel. The Golden Jubilee. Hosanna House S 5380, 1979. LP.
Temple Trio, Del Delker, Lolita Moore, and Ruth Grunke. Songs from the Heart. Chapel Records, 1950. LP.
Wedgewood Trio, the King’s Heralds, and Del Delker. Music for Heart and Home. Chapel Records S 5001, 1970. LP.
Ancestry.com, U.S., Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, 1847-Current [database on-line] (Lehi, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011), accessed May 19, 2019, https://ancestry.com.↩
1930 United States census, Walworth County, South Dakota, enumeration district 0003, roll T626, FHL microfilm 2341966, page 4a, digital image, “Delker, Ardela,” Ancestry.com, accessed May 19, 2019, https://ancestry.com; 1940 United States census, Alameda County, California, enumeration district 61-214, roll
m-t0627-00437, page 1a, digital image, “Delker, Ardella,” Ancestry.com, accessed May 19, 2019, https://ancestry.com; Michele Stotz, “Voice of Prophecy Soloist Passes to Her Rest,” ARH, January 31, 2018, accessed March 22, 2019, https://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/story5823-voice-of-prophecy-soloist-del-delker-passes-to-her-rest.↩
Del Delker and Ken Wade, Del Delker: Her Story as Told to Ken Wade (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2002), 5; Stephen Chavez, “I Know He Watches Me,” ARH, April 14, 2009, accessed March 22, 2019, https://www.adventistreview.org/2009-1511-16.↩
Delker and Wade, 20.↩
Ibid., 37, 38-40.↩
Ibid., 48, 49.↩
Leona Glidden Running, 36 Days and a Dream (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1952); Leona Glidden Running, “Next: Switzerland,” The Youth’s Instructor, February 3, 1953, 11.↩
Delker and Wade, 86-87.↩
Ibid., 50, 51, 64-70.↩
Ibid., 136, 137.↩
Mark Kellner, “Adventist Hugh Martin, Composer and Del Delker’s Accompanist, Dies,” ARH, April 19, 2011, accessed March 22, 2019, https://www.adventistreview.org/archive-4325; Delker and Wade, 137-138.↩
Delker and Wade, 124-126.↩
“The Voice of Prophecy, Diamond Jubilee Celebration” printed program provides a listing of the sites and the program and participants; Jeff Lauritzen, “Collegedale Academy Performs with Voice of Prophecy,” Southern Tidings, November 2004, 10.↩
Debbonnaire Kovacs, “Del Delker-Ninety-one-Years of Song (So Far!),” Adventist Today, October 29, 2015, accessed March 22, 2019, https://atoday.org/del-delker-ninety-one-years-of-song-so-far/; Chavez, see endnote 4.↩
Stotz, see endnote 2.↩
For Del Delker’s discography, see the list after Sources. According to the liner for her compact disc, Have Yourself a Blessed Little Christmas, Delker participated in more than seventy recordings, including two children’s albums, 32 solo albums in English, four in Spanish, two in Portuguese, and one in Ukrainian. Voice of Prophecy web site, accessed March 22, 2019, https://store.vop.com/collections/music/products/have-yourself-a-blessed.↩