October 22, 2016 --
Retired U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman was honored in a street naming ceremony at the corner of 10th Street and Ridge Avenue in Darby, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. The new street, Ronald S. Coleman Boulevard, replaced 10th Street.
The event was witnessed by a mixed crowd of Marines, police officers, musicians, politicians and Pennsylvania residents who stood in the rain to watch as the city of Darby unveiled the new street in honor of Ronald Coleman, who the city has come to recognize as their hometown hero.
The ceremony kicked off with a small parade of musicians who marched through the streets of Darby to the ceremony location. Marine reservists assigned to Artillery Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, placed two howitzers in the street and stood in formation near the center stage. Fire engines from the Darby Fire Department had their ladders raised with a large American flag hanging behind the stage.
The event recognized Coleman, a Darby native, the second African American Marine to reach the rank of lieutenant general. According to Robert Smythe, the Darby Chief of Police, Coleman is seen as an inspiration to the youth of Darby, and proof that anybody can be successful if they work hard.
“I approached the city council and I said, ‘this guy is a hometown hero – look at his bio and what he’s done,’” said Smythe. “So I proposed it, they voted on it and adopted it, and now four continual blocks from the unit block to the 300 block are known as Ronald Coleman Boulevard.”
City council officials felt it was appropriate to name that stretch of road after him because he grew up at 342 North 10th Street.
Following his graduation from Darby-Colwyn High School, he joined the Navy in April 1968 and served in Vietnam until his return home and discharge in June 1970. After his return, he served as a part-time police officer in the Darby Police Force throughout 1973 and most of 1974 while attending Cheyney State University. After his graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps on December 1974. After 35 years of service, he retired in December 2009 at the rank of lieutenant general.
Guest speakers at the event spoke positively about Coleman and his character as both a leader and a human being.
“Every day I go to a diner or barbershop, people talk about our divided country,” said Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony H. Williams. “We live in a great country. I don’t want to hear it. He is from Darby, and had surpassed every obstacle. He went to Vietnam. He served and protected us, and he has returned home to Darby. We’re from Darby; couldn’t be prouder. If you didn’t hear us, we will say it a little louder.” Also among the guest speakers was the former Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, retired Gen. John M. Paxton Jr. Speaking with enthusiasm and laying his hand on Coleman’s shoulder, it was apparent that the two were close.
“Ron and I got to be best buddies, best friends, best Marines in March 1978, and we tracked each other for 38 years,” said Paxton. “So I’m here on behalf of 184,000 Marines to tell the other sons and daughters of Darby, what a great mate, what a great teammate, what a great neighborhood mate, what a great leader you have here, that you raised.”
Following the ceremony, Coleman offered some words on how he felt about the day’s proceedings.
“This is really amazing. It’s one of those moments where you think, ‘why me,’” said Coleman. “I’m just very honored. I grew up here, I love this town and the people in it, and I’m humbled. I don’t think I’ve ever cried in public, but this was too much – the warmth, it was just unbelievable.”