Michael DeBerdine assures flags wave in remembrance of vets

Mike DeBerdine adjusts a flag on a veteran's grave in the Grace United Methodist Church cemetery in Millersville. (Jeff Ruppenthal, Sunday News)

Michael F. DeBerdine III, 42, of Millersville has been placing flags on veterans' graves on Memorial Day as long as he can remember.

These May outings, always family affairs, started with his late father, Michael F. Jr., a Korean War-era veteran. Today he, his mother, Faye, and his sister, Jennifer Goldbach, carry on the tradition with a third generation enlisted as volunteers in the American Legion effort.

They visit cemeteries in Rawlinsville, Marticville, Mount Nebo, Mechanics Grove and Little Britain in the two weeks before the holiday. They remove the weathered flags, disposing of them properly by burning them, and leave fresh flags. Recently they have had assistance from members of Cub Pack 268 in Millersville.

But perhaps even without his father's leadership or anyone else's help, DeBerdine and one of his children were destined to do this particular good turn. Their birthday is June 14, Flag Day!

Hometown: Quarryville.

Family: Wife, Debra; son, Nate, 10; daughters, Brooke, 8, and Emma, who will be 6 on Flag Day.

Education: Solanco High School (1983) and Franklin & Marshall College (1987). I chose F&M because Coach Tom Gilburg called at 11 the night before the admission deadline. We talked academics for 25 minutes; five minutes was about playing football. He made the choice easy. Those were the best four years of my young life. On the football team, I played defensive back.

Job title: President and chief executive officer of Rhoads Energy Corp.

Growing up, I wanted to be: A baseball player. I later realized I had a rag arm.

First job: I ran the miniature golf course across from Tanglewood the summer after eighth grade. My pay was half the receipts. I made more money on the 7-UP machine my Great-Uncle Zeke arranged for me to rent.

Career path: Right out of college, I started two businesses at about the same time: a health club and a parking-lot maintenance business. I would work in the health club all day, eat dinner and head out at 9 p.m. to sweep 21 parking lots between York and Chester counties. When reality struck, I "paid" to get out of the health-club business and filled an opening at Rhoads as an assistant controller. I have been there for 18 years.

Best advice I ever received: Don't be so critical of others and their decisions. You haven't walked a day in their shoes.

Best thing about my job: The diversity of tasks. I might be shoveling snow from the sidewalk, buying oil, supervising a building project or riding on a delivery truck.

The toughest part of my job: The volatility of the petroleum market, when 99 percent of the reasons for price fluctuations are hype.

Something I'd like to get around to doing: Visiting the Holy Lands.

A cause I really support: Challenger Little League Baseball, a program for children with special needs who cannot play traditional baseball with their peers. The neatest experience was taking the team to the White House to play T-ball on the South Lawn for President Bush and Laura.

I have been involved in this almost from the start 18 years ago and have been the coordinator for, I think, 10 years. Time flies when you're having fun.

Additional community involvement: Grace United Methodist Church, Millersville; Rotary Club of Lancaster South, secretary; Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, board member; PA Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, vice president.

Pets: Sammy, a black cockapoo, a hermit crab from last summer at the beach, and a fish from the Millersville Firemen's Festival that is the coolest pet of all. Every morning when I come downstairs, it starts doing flips for food.

Pet peeve: People who are mopers.

I'm superstitious about: My pre-game snack of Snickers and a Gatorade before officiating at high-school and college football games (Divisions 3, 2 and some 1AA). Officiating is the best way to stay on the field and be around the excitement and the kids.

A movie I'd recommend: "Remember the Titans."

Must-see TV: "Seinfeld." Yes, I know that is so '90s.

My kind of music: A little rhythm & blues, Frank, young Elvis, contemporary Christian and good dance music.

Favorite vacation spot: Avalon, N.J.

Frequently visited Web site: www.DTN.com. The petroleum-pricing site is on my computer all day and night

Gadget I couldn't live without: My Blackberry. (My wife hates it.)

Best gift I received recently: A new pair of sneakers my wife and kids picked out.

The car I drive: Toyota 4 Runner.

Favorite sports team: Lancaster Barnstormers.

Favorite restaurant: Characters.

Ideal meal: Duck with raspberry sauce.

People might be surprised to know: My grandfather's last name was actually DeBelardino.

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