By Rick Assad
When Mickey DePalo would make his way to McCambridge Park and spend a large chunk of his day with friends playing every conceivable sport, he didn’t find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
He may have found something even better – a career path that saw the Kentucky-native spend nearly 42 years with the Burbank Parks and Recreation Department, including being the longtime supervisor.
“At the time I was going to the park I didn’t think of it as a career path, but when I look back, that’s what it was,” he said. “I made so many wonderful friends at McCambridge Park. We were park rats and we enjoyed countless hours playing at the park.”
DePalo, who retired in 2008 and graduated with a degree in Recreation Administration from Cal State University, Northridge, added: “I was there when it first opened in 1957, but it was called Glenoaks Park, and that left a big impression on me,” he said.
DePalo is a Vietnam War veteran and has been bestowed with many honors including being named the 43rd State Assembly Veteran of the Year in 2012 and 2017 and was inducted into the Burbank Athletics Walk of Fame in 2007.
In June, DePalo, who along with his wife, will be moving from his adopted city to Illinois in order to be closer to his son and daughter-in-law and their soon-to-arrive baby, knows others had a helping hand in shaping him.
“We all had great role models in our parents, coaches and teachers and wonderful people who worked at the park,” he explained. “I really believe this is the big reason many of us became teachers, coaches and recreation employees. We all chose to serve others, and fortunately, continue to do so today.”
Leaving Burbank isn’t easy, but it’s a decision that DePalo feels is necessary.
“My family and I have been given so much from this great city. We are truly blessed,” said DePalo, who played Hap Minor baseball as a youngster. “I will forever be grateful for growing up here and making so many lifetime friends. I wouldn’t leave Burbank, but of course, family comes first.”
Over the course of more than four decades, DePalo has worked with hundreds of people and many co-workers, including Linda Oseransky, who is retired, but formerly held the position of Parks And Recreations Department Deputy Director, Senior and Human Services.
It was the daily contact with people that Oseransky will remember most about DePalo, who attended Jefferson Elementary School, John Muir Middle School and Burbank High, where he graduated in 1964.
Since retiring, DePalo has worn many hats, including a coach, volunteering his time, and working with servicemen and women, which is near and dear to his heart.
“His forty-year stint working at the Recreation Centers and in the sports office afforded him opportunities to connect with people and have an impact on many that is still valued today in retirement,” Oseransky said.
Longtime coach and former Parks and Recreation Department employee Mike Graceffo knows DePalo well.
“Mickey is one of the most influential people I ever met. The thing that always stands out for me in regards to Mickey is his loyalty and integrity. As a co-worker and my boss, he always had his employees’ backs. He would allow us to flourish in our job,” he pointed out. “He would be there to guide us and get on us when needed, but at the same time he would not micromanage us.”
Gary [Ozy] Oseransky, Linda’s husband, is retired and worked at Universal Studios as the property foreman of its prop house, and has also known DePalo for decades.
“Mickey is a friend who is always there for you. He has been a positive influence for all the kids he has coached at Loyola High School,” he said. “I am very comfortable with Mickey because he offers me mutual esteem, affection and respect.”
Given the chance to be an assistant cross-country and track coach for the Cubs has been a blessing, according to DePalo, who was recognized as a Hometown Hero by the Verdugo Hills Boy Scout Council in 2016 and the City of Burbank Senior Volunteer of the Year.
“I have been doing this for 13 memorable years. These young men that I have coached inspire me each and every day,” he said. “I am forever grateful to Dr. Lalo Diaz, the head coach, for giving me this great opportunity.”
Graceffo, for one, will miss DePalo, but understands why he’s leaving Burbank.
“As a friend, there is no one better. He was always there for you when you needed him,” he said. “You can trust him. He also is so much fun to be around and has a great personality. I am sad that he is moving to a different state, but at the same time, I am happy for him because he is going to be a grandfather and live closer to his son. I am a better person for having Mickey in my life.”
Linda Oseransky is impressed by DePalo’s volunteer work but isn’t surprised.
Oseransky knows that Depalo will be missed by each and every one he was in contact with.
“There will be a big hole in the fabric of the Burbank community when Mickey moves to Chicago to welcome his first grandchild into the world,” she said. “And I will miss my coworker and friend, but I’m so happy for him. It’s another new adventure for him that I know he will dive right into – being the best grandpa.”
As the Chairman of the Veterans Committee, DePalo, who had a hand in the arrival of the Vietnam Memorial “Moving Wall,” a traveling display of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that ran in February, 1998, will return to Burbank in November and will oversee the Veterans Day ceremonies.
“I’m passionate about being there for my brothers and sisters,” he said. “It’s therapy for me.”
DePalo, who was recognized by Keller-Williams Realty as the Burbank Citizen of the Year in 2012, was instrumental in getting the Korean War and Vietnam War memorials to Burbank in 1988.
And so a life of service continues for DePalo, who said he could never do enough for a city that has given him so much.
On this count, DePalo may be wrong.