Legendary shooter, dog expert Loral I Delaney dies at age 83

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Delaney trained many breeds of dogs over the years, but had a soft spot for serious, hard-charging Chesapeake Bay Retrievers.

Ramsey, Minn. — The outdoors sporting world this week mourned the loss of legendary shooter and businesswoman Loral I Delaney, who died Sunday, Sept. 19 at the age of 83 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Ramsey resident Delaney had spent her entire life working in the outdoors business, first as a dog trainer through her father’s Armstrong Ranch Kennels, then as one of the world’s most accomplished women professional shooters, and then as a show promoter with her husband of 62 years, Chuck. Their annual Game Fair event at the facility where she grew up marked its 40th year in August 2021.

Loral I was born in 1938 to Fred and Nellie Armstrong in the Ramsey home on the grounds of Armstrong Ranch Kennels, the site of Game Fair. Her father had opened the business in 1926 and is the namesake of Armstrong Boulevard, which at the time was a two-lane dirt road. She would live on the property her entire life.

At just 5 years old, she appeared onstage at the Northwest Sportshow in Minneapolis in 1943 with her trained Labrador retrievers – the beginning of what would become a nationwide event tour with her dogs. Newspaper types at the time were beside themselves with her show and gave it their full attention when she returned to the Northwest Sports Show in 1944 as a 6-year-old.

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Chuck and Loral I Delaney (above in 1965 and below more recently) married in 1960 and rarely spent a day apart. In 1982, they founded Game Fair at the Armstrong Ranch, a facility founded by her father and where she was born. Game Fair marked its 40th year in August.

They called it the most popular act at the show and described her as a talented girl who had an inherent gift. In the sports section of the April 10, 1944 edition of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune, writer Ed Shave wrote an article titled, “Six Year Old Girl Dog Trainer Steals Sports Show.” In it he wrote:

“The tiny daughter of Fred Armstrong, noted dog trainer, put her two beautiful black Labradors through a retrieving act which literally brought down the house. It was one of the finest exhibitions ever staged at the show and a beautiful demonstration of well trained dogs.”

Her knowledge of canines wasn’t limited to the shooting sports. At the age of 16, she placed second in the Aquatennial Sled Dog race and received $1,000 for her efforts.

Screen Shot 2021 09 20 At 14157 Pm CopyA 1956 graduate of Anoka High School, where she also was the school’s homecoming queen, Delaney won her first ladies state trapshooting championship a year later. She attended her first Grand American World Trapshooting Championships in 1964 and would eventually win 50 trophies at the annual competition that draws nearly 4,000 of the world’s top shooting competitors.

In 1960, at a sports show in Chicago, Loral I met a young man by the name of Chuck Delaney. He was one of the guys who ran the show and the two of them hit it off from the start. They were married later that year and moved to California for a year, only to return back to the Armstrong ranch to work.

The two bought the ranch from her parents in the late ’60s and have owned it ever since.

Loraliodncovershot OrigGranddaughter Ana Miller called Loral I “the best” who led by example and taught her to be a strong, independent woman. Delaney’s lifelong personal and professional partnership with her husband set an incredible example for a loving marriage.

“Those two were soulmates right there,” Miller said. “They thrived off each other and loved each other deeply. Between shows and events and the kennel, they rarely spent a day apart.”

Loral I Delaney also was a respected dog trainer, and under her direction, Armstrong Ranch earned a reputation as a top-notch training facility. Though she focused on Labs in recent years, there are many pictures of her with hard-charging Chesapeakes earlier in her career.

“She always liked the fire and drive in Chessies. They’re more unpredictable, and she liked that challenge,” Miller said. “They’re a lot of dog, and it takes a special person to train them well.”

Frequent Outdoor News contributor Ron Hustvedt Jr. works Game Fair every summer and called Delaney “a pioneer in the shooting sports world who led by example with a quiet, confident power.

“She opened up opportunities for other women to enter the sport, and then promoted opportunities like Game Fair and shooting clubs where women were specifically invited to participate and lead.

“I’m going to miss her energy, her kindness, her charm and, most of all, her friendship.”

After amassing numerous national and international trophies throughout six decades of competition, Delaney was inducted into the Trapshooting Hall of Fame in 1989. Last year, the city of Ramsey recognized Loral I Armstrong Delaney by renaming the community’s Central Park in her honor.

To honor her many accomplishments also in 2020, Gov. Tim Walz proclaimed Dec. 18 “Loral I Delaney Day” in the state of Minnesota.

The Delaneys raised one daughter, Sherry Miller (Eric), and they have three grandchildren, Chandra Twede (Scott), Ana Miller, and John Miller.

Per Loral I’s wishes, the family is not planning a funeral home service, but rather a memorial at the ranch for family and friends. Complete details are forthcoming, but Miller anticipated it would be open to the public and happen in a couple of weeks, when out-of-state family can be present.

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