Patricia Keegan DeLaney was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1921 and raised in nearby Lexington. She graduated from Lexington High School in 1937 and enrolled in Simmons College in Boston, where she studied business. While in school she performed secretarial work. In June of 1941, she graduated from college and went to work for R.H. White Companies, Inc. in Waban, Massachusetts.
DeLaney enlisted in the U.S. Navy WAVES in August of 1942. She was sent to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, for basic training. After completing training, she worked as the secretary to the personnel officer at Smith. After nine months, she was sent to Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, for Officers’ Candidate School [OCS]. She completed the three month program and was sent to Radcliffe College in Cambridge for supply school. Three months later she was sent to the Boston Navy Yard to await orders. On 20 January 1944, she was sent to San Pedro, California. There she worked as the supply officer for radar, sonar, and radio equipment. There she met Ernie DeLaney, and the couple was married in January of 1945. She was discharged on September 9, 1945, due to pregnancy.
DeLaney gave birth to her first child, Patty, on December 19, 1945. The couple moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where Ernie completed six more months of service in the navy. When he was discharged, the couple moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. There she gave birth to her second child, Mike. In Charlotte, DeLaney served a term on the city council and was active in the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. She used the GI Bill to get her degree in political science from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked for candidate Liz Hair during political campaigns.