William F. Rathgeber Jr., 96, formerly of Havertown, a decorated Korean War Army veteran who also won commendations for his work as a civilian serving the military, died May 11 at Pine Run Community in Doylestown.

Mr. Rathgeber grew up in Southwest Philadelphia. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade to help support his family and got a job as a messenger. He later worked at Chilton Publishing Co. in Philadelphia where he met his future wife, Lillian Mae Blumenthal. They married in 1936. Three years later he began his career with the federal government as a clerk typist at the Army Ordnance District at the Frankford Arsenal.

During World War II, he served Stateside in the Army. He was recalled to military service during the Korean War and was operations officer of the 59th Ordnance Group in Korea. He served in a combat zone and was awarded a Bronze Star. He remained in the Army Reserve until retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1965.

After active duty, he returned to Army Ordnance District. By 1964, he was the civilian assistant to the military commander responsible for establishing the Defense Contract Administration Services Region in Philadelphia. The region was set up to provide management and technical support to the Defense Supply Agency and to assist the Army, Navy, and Air Force and NASA with government contracts. Mr. Rathgeber negotiated with unions and was involved with planning and budgets during the Vietnam War.

His work was rated outstanding and superior a number of times, and in 1965 he was named the Federal Civil Service employee of the year.

When he retired in 1970, Mr. Rathgeber received a commendation for "dedication and devotion to duty which resulted in significant savings in manpower and material resources as well as solutions to complex problems over 29 years of federal service."

He was a modest person, his son William III said. His son learned about his father's accomplishments while going through his papers after his death.

Mr. Rathgeber is survived by another son, Alan; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His wife died in 1997.

Services were private.

Memorial donations may be made to the Salvation Army, 1601 N. Broad St., Lansdale, Pa. 19446.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.