Rabil celebrates 104 years

Published 6:30 pm Friday, June 9, 2023

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On Monday, May 22, Mitchell “Mitch” Frank Rabil celebrated his 104th birthday. On that day, and on the Sunday preceding it, family members gathered at his residence to celebrate the occasion. His “Dairy Queen” business partner of many years, Mitchell “Mitch” Sandlin, joined the Monday celebration.

A native of Weldon, North Carolina, Mitch Rabil was born on May 22, 1919. His siblings include Ernie, Fred, Helen, Joe, Leon, Lucille, Marguerite and William – the children of Frank and Mary Rabil who emigrated from Lebanon in the early 1900s. According to Nephew Frank Rabil, Marguerite turned 99 on May 17 and Helen turned 96 on May 24; the others are deceased.

Mitch Rabil came to Franklin in 1940 at the age of 21 and worked for two of his uncles’ businesses on Main Street. 

During World War II, Rabil served in the U. S. military — from 1942 to 1945. After reporting in at Fort Bragg, N. C., he was assigned to the U. S. Army Air Forces; taking his training at Biloxi, Mississippi, he was then assigned to March Air Force base, near Riverside, California. Soon after that, he was deployed and attached to the U. S. Army Air Corps, 7th Air Force, serving primarily in the Pacific Theater of the war. He was assigned to a supply ship which moved into and through central and western Pacific areas: Saipan, Torrelraa and Quaisiline — in the Marianas. His unit was in support of the many bombing missions that took place in those areas. He attained the rank of Staff Sergeant, a four-striper as he called it.

At the closing of the war, he was assigned to Hawaii for a period of time and then returned to Franklin. He then opened up a pool hall in one section of the building that later became known as “Fred’s.” Some years later, he gave up the pool hall side of the building to his brother Fred Rabil who expanded his restaurant into that section.

In 1952, Mitch Rabil and Helen Kannon of Goldsboro, North Carolina were married. Their son Mitchell, Jr. was born in 1953 and daughter Mary Kaye was born two years later. Wife Helen died in 1988. Son Mitchell “Mickey” Rabil, Jr. and wife Barbara reside in Atlanta, Georgia; their children are Megan Stevens, Greg Rabil and Ron Rabil. Daughter Mary Kaye Copley and husband David reside in Chesapeake, their son is Tyler Copley. Mitch’s great-grandchildren are: Mira Stevens, Kieran Stevens, Lilly Rabil and Charlotte Rabil. 

In 1964, Mitch Rabil acquired ownership of a preexisting Dairy Queen — built in 1952 — which was located on South Street in Franklin. The two Mitches first got together when Mitch Rabil, hired Mitch Sandlin when Sandlin was in high school. When Mitch Sandlin finished college, and having worked with the Virginia Restaurant Association for a period of time, he returned to Franklin to eventually become a partner with Mitch Rabil in his Dairy Queen businesses. Eventually, over time, from that earlier association, Mid-Atlantic Dairy Queen, Inc. developed and evolved with Mitch Sandlin as its president and chief executive officer. The organization is headquartered in Franklin, and is presently comprised of 15 Dairy Queen locations throughout the greater Hampton Roads area.

When Mitch Rabil retired, he partnered with Bob Turner in various real estate development projects, primarily, throughout the Franklin area. And, he and his family traveled extensively throughout the United States and in several other countries.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net.