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Mike McLaughlin, known for kindness

MIKE McLAUGHLIN was a determined man. Maybe it was his experience as a Marine, or just his tough Irish nature, but Mike wasn't going to let his impending death stop him from doing what he felt he had to do for his family.

MIKE McLAUGHLIN was a determined man.

Maybe it was his experience as a Marine, or just his tough Irish nature, but Mike wasn't going to let his impending death stop him from doing what he felt he had to do for his family.

Suffering from throat cancer, Mike told his doctors they had to keep him alive until June 17. That was when he planned to settle on the sale of his former house and the purchase of his new home in Mechanicsburg.

"The doctors told him he'd better move up the date," said his brother, Joseph P. McLaughlin.

So, the date was moved to last Tuesday. Mike went to downtown Harrisburg and walked along 3rd Street. He bought a bunch of flowers for the new owner of his old house, and a bunch for the new house.

He then went to the barber shop to get a haircut - "because he wanted to look like a Marine," his brother said - then went to the real estate office.

"He settled on the sale of the former house at 3:30, and the new house at 4:30," Joe said. "He was determined to leave his family with as much security as he could. The new house has no mortgage.

"Mike then went to his office and started packing up. He was determined to finish everything," his brother said.

He was taken to Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill where he died Thursday at the age of 62.

Michael C. McLaughlin was a man renowned as much for his kindness and concern for needy people as for his political acumen as a self-employed lobbyist and aide to a governor and a senator.

"He was incredibly generous and thoughtful," his brother said. "He really identified with the average person. There are so many stories about his kindness."

Mike served as press secretary to the late Gov. Milton J. Shapp and chief of staff to former state Senate Democratic leader Edward Zemprelli.

A descendant of generations of McLaughlins in the newspaper business (a great-grandfather ran a paper in Erie County), Mike had been a reporter for the old Evening Bulletin, where he earned a reputation as a digger who always searched for the in-depth story, with a particular interest in the police.

"I know he got on Frank Rizzo's nerves," Joe said, referring to the former police commissioner and mayor.

Mike started at the Bulletin while a student at Temple University and then went on to the Orlando Star Sentinel as Washington bureau chief during the Gerald Ford administration before coming back home to start in the political sphere.

"Mike was a trusted adviser not only to Gov. Shapp and the Senate Democratic caucus, but to many other elected officials throughout his career because he was so deeply respected for his judgment and integrity," his brother said.

"True to his Marine Corps training, he was 'always faithful,' not just to the elected officials he served and the clients he represented, but to the truth. He dealt regularly with the powerful, but never forgot the powerless."

"He was fiercely loyal to the people he served," Gov. Rendell commented. "But he also was fiercely loyal to the truth, and that is the highest praise you can give someone."

Mike was born in Philadelphia to Joseph P. and Jeannette Colegrove McLaughlin, both of whom worked for the old Philadelphia Record.

He attended La Salle High School and Germantown Academy and enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 17. He served in 1967 and '68 in Vietnam. He earned his high-school diploma in the marines, and attained the rank of sergeant. He then attended Temple University.

After his work for Shapp and Zemprelli, Mike joined the Philadelphia lobbying firm of S.R. Wojdak & Associates. He was vice president of its Harrisburg office.

In 1992, he formed his own lobbying, public relations and business-development firm.

In 1984, Mike and William Greenlee, now a Philadelphia City Councilman, co-founded a charity golf event to support the family of Bob Burgess, a lobbyist who was killed in an automobile accident. Now known as the Bob Burgess-Thomas McCormac (a legislative aide also killed in a car crash) Memorial Golf Tournament, it has raised thousands of dollars for various causes.

"Mike had a big heart," said his brother, a Temple administrator and teacher. "His life was filled with many acts of kindness and generosity toward others. His clients included large financial institutions but also thousands of Pennsylvania's blind and handicppaed workers and hundreds of volunteer fire companies and churches that depend on small games of chance to raise funds."

Mike was also active in veterans' affairs, including serving as vice presdent of Capital Chapter 542 of Vietnam Veterans of America. As such, Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed named him grand marshal of the city's 2009 Holiday Parade.

In addition to his brother, he is survived by his wife, Nicole; two daughters, Devyn and Grasyn; a son, Ian, and a sister, Katharine D. Morse. Another brother, James, died at the age of 14.

Services: Funeral Mass 10 a.m. Wednesday at Prince of Peace Church, 815 2nd St., Steelton. Friends may call at 6 p.m. tomorrow at the Wiedeman Funeral Home, 357 S. 2nd St., Steelton, and at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the church. Burial will be at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery, Annville, Pa.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Ron Waddell Education Fund, Vietnam Veterans of America, Capital Chapter 542, 8000 Derry St., Harrisburg, Pa., 17011.