Ronald Coleman was the second oldest (three years younger than Pete) of Darby’s Coleman brothers. Following in his brother’s footsteps, Ron, who was known as “Dookie” in his youth, starred in three sports at Darby-Colwyn, graduating in 1966.
Coleman played basketball and was a great baseball player, but he also continued the Coleman tradition on the gridiron, following in his brother’s footsteps as the Rams’ quarterback on the 1965 squad. He led that team to an undefeated season (two ties) with teammates such as: Wayne Trent and Harry Collins.
After Coleman graduated, he attended North East Christian School for a year, thinking that he might want to be a minister. He left there and decided to enlist in the Navy for two years, where he did a stint in Vietnam. His job there was hazardous duty, and consisted of getting ammunition from the ship to the Marine’s positions.
Coleman was discharged from the service in 1970 and returned to college, this time Cheyney University. After picking up his degree, he began teaching and coaching at Darby Township. That did not last too long when he decided to give the service another try.
“I decided to go back into the service,” recalled Coleman. “I really liked the discipline. So I interviewed for all four services. Halfway through my test for the Marines, the recruiter stopped me and said I already had qualified for Officer Candidate School.
“I picked the Marines because I was so impressed with the courage and the discipline I observed with those young Marines in Vietnam. But my real incentive was that I wanted to join the FBI, and I thought a couple of years in the Corps would look good in my application.”
In 1975, Coleman reported to Camp Lejeune with the 2nd Marine Regiment and served as the Regional Supply Officer and Platoon Commander. By 1977, he found himself stationed in Okinawa, Japan, deployed with a Landing Support Unit.
A year later, he reported to Officer Candidate School and served as a Supply Officer, Candidate Platoon Commander and Director of the Non-Commissioned Officer School. He also attended Amphibious Warfare School, and later was assigned as an Instructor at the Amphibious Warfare School.
In 1987, Coleman (now a Major) attended the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and again went back to Okinawa where he served as a Commanding Officer and Operations Officer.
Three years later, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and reported to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University.
In 1996, Coleman was moved to the Pentagon as Deputy Division Chief, and then returned to Camp Lejeune for duty with the 2nd Marine Division as the Assistant Chief of Staff.
He was promoted to Brigadier General in 2002, and was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Two years later, he was deployed again, this time in a Combined Joint Task Force in Haiti, in support of Operation Secure Democracy. For his leadership in Haiti, the French government awarded him the Gold Medal of French Defense.
Coleman was promoted to Major General in 2006 and received his third star a year later. The retired United States Marine is only the second African-American to attain the rank of Lieutenant General (three star rank) in the United States Marine Corps.
That’s not too bad for one of eight children from the little borough of Darby.
One time, Dennis, the next brother in line, described the difference between his brother’s Pete and Ronald. “Pete was almost like a father figure to me and my brothers,” explained Dennis. “Ron was my big brother. He’s the one who taught me about girls, who made me work extra hard, who disciplined me. I owe a lot of what success I have had to Ron.”
Dennis, who graduated from Darby-Colwyn in 1971, had that same strong feeling about family. “We were rich in love and prayer,” recalled Dennis. “We went to church, respected our elders, and lived by the Golden Rule.”
Coleman, like his brothers, was also a three-sport star for the Rams. Also, like his brothers, he was a quarterback on the football team and quite a good one.
As a sophomore, he threw for five touchdown passes, and his junior year, he increased that to 16. However, it was his senior season that he put it all together and tossed 27 scoring strikes in leading Darby-Colwyn to an 8-1 record and a share of the Section Three title. He was actually only four touchdowns short of Steve Joachim’s single season mark of 31 while playing at Haverford.
Even though Coleman had a record breaking season, he was unfortunately not selected as the top quarterback in the county. That went to Tom Hibbits of Haverford and Ridley’s Eric Scott, who were both picked for the All-Delco first team. The second team All-Delco quarterback was Tony Kozak of St. James; while Coleman had to settle for honorable mention.
The Daily Times wrote, “Coleman, who sparked D-C’s awesome pro-set offense with a season log of 120 completions in 186 attempts for 1,737 yards, frequently hit either John Mackrey or his brother Arnold Coleman for long gainers.”
At the time, Joachim led all Delco quarterbacks with 62 career touchdown passes. After the 1970 season, Coleman had tossed 48 in his career, which moved him ahead of Ridley’s John Hornibrook for second place.
Next Week: Dennis gets a law degree and Arnold becomes a two-sport star in college.