A 97-year-old resident of Watertown, N.Y., and World War II veteran, received his high school diploma on Monday, 80 years after dropping out to support his family during the Great Depression. Frederick Gray was given his diploma during a special ceremony at his Watertown home.
To make the presentation, officials from Watertown High School, representatives from Watertown School District and the school’s 2013 valedictorian and salutatorian went to Gray's home, notes Watertown Daily News. Speaking about receiving his diploma, Gray said, ‘’I’m amazed ... I never in God’s world expected to be getting this.”
The WWII veteran recently retired as head of New York Air Brake’s billing department. Gray had dropped out of Watertown High School in 1934 and was later drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942. Gray served during the Pacific campaign earning a Bronze Star during his tenure. He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and later returned to Watertown to work at New York Air Brake to help provide for his mother and two brothers following his father’s death.
The ceremony for Gray was set up by his friend Joseph Caronia who worked with the school’s principal on the presentation. Caronia and school officials wanted to surprise Gray during Watertown High School’s graduation ceremony for the 2013 class but instead opted for a quieter celebration.
Unfortunately Gray’s brothers and fellow WWII veterans, Robert and James, are deceased but his niece, Deanna J. Shepard, was on hand during the diploma celebration. Salutatorian Mark Derbyshire said Gray’s joy put into perspective the importance of a high school degree.
Gray joins a select few elderly high school graduates, but he's not the oldest. That honor goes to Fred Butler, a 106-year-old WWII veteran from Beverly, Mass., according to the Boston Globe.