Whether it be from seeing him at the scorer’s table at a basketball game, reading his name in The Journal-News, or recognizing him from his time as a teacher, most Hillsboro residents have likely crossed paths with Ron Deabenderfer at some level.
Having spent 40 years as a high school teacher, being on the county board since 2000, and with numerous coaching positions under his belt, Deabenderfer has proven himself to be a man who wears many hats for his community.
Ron Deabenderfer, or Mr. D as he prefers, was born in Indiana, PA and lived on a cattle farm with his family. Growing up a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, Mr. D had a natural love for sports although he was unable to compete himself growing up. He would have loved to be on the school basketball team, but “the cows had to be milked.”
His uncle had a subscription to The Indiana Evening Gazette, which Mr. D would read to keep up with the Pirates. This was where his love from journalism stemmed as he was drawn towards the sports articles and loved seeing all the different statistics in the box scores.
He also regularly tuned into University of Pittsburgh basketball and football games on the radio to hear about future NFL legend, Mike Ditka.
After graduating high school, Mr. D split time between working through college and taking care of his father’s farm. Then in the early 1960s Mr. D and his then wife-to-be, Judy, moved to Illinois so they could attend Blackburn College in Carlinville.
After graduating with an English degree, Mr. D originally planned on enlisting into the Air Force and going to Vietnam. This did not go according to plan however, as somewhere along the lines his paperwork was lost and he was never sent out.
In 1968, Mr. D was working in a factory in Litchfield when he was offered a job as a teacher at Hillsboro High School (HHS).
Hillsboro at the time was shorthanded on teachers and having an English degree made Mr. D a top candidate for the job even without any teaching experience. He took the job as an English teacher, as well as taking on the role of coach for the Coffeen Jr. High baseball team.
Mr. D went on to teach at HHS from 1968 to 2007, tallying up numerous different coaching positions along the way including high school baseball, freshman basketball and several assistant coaching positions. He also helped start the boys soccer program at HHS and was coach of the very first team in 1999, all the way until 2006.
Mr. D also was hired as a writer for The Hillsboro Journal (the predecessor of The Journal-News) in 1970, when he started covering the football team and Hillsboro Jr. High games. On top of this he was tasked with covering obituaries.
He also took on the position of statistician for the HHS football team. To this day he still covers football, boys basketball and baseball, while also keeping stats.
In early January of 1999, Mr. D ran the first of his Ramblings column, which still runs once a month in The Journal-News.
Mr. D dedicates the column to “whatever struck my fancy at the time.” Ramblings readers typically see Mr. D looking back at different learning experiences in his life, usually with an attempt to tie them to something from modern day.
“I try to be funny and I try to be serious,” says Mr. D on his Ramblings. He describes the fan favorite column as “a stream of consciousness on paper,” hence the name.
One thing that motivates Mr. D to continue writing about local sports is to give credit to kids who may not normally get that attention.
“I believe it is rewarding to see your name in the newspaper,” he says. “One of the things I enjoy most about writing is giving kids the chance to get recognition.”
Mr. D also loves getting to watch his grandchildren play soccer. Although his two oldest grandchildren have since graduated from HHS (Kaylyn and Kyle), his youngest granddaughter, Kamryn, is a sophomore at HHS now and a member of the girls soccer team.
Mr. D is very hopeful about getting to watch her play soccer in the coming months, as well as seeing all the returning sports.
And as he keeps watching, Hiltopper fans from all over will be watching too, if not in person, then through the words of a man who has given so much to his community.