82-Year-Old Man Recieves Diploma at Alexandria Central
It's one of those days you'll never forget: high school graduation. The excitement, the optimism, your whole life ahead of you. The possibilities of the future, seemingly endless, as they say. But the same couldn't be said for one man in the Class of 2013 at Alexandria Central School. 82-year-old Rudy Conrad Parker received his diploma on Saturday along with the class of 2013.
"I've never been so proud and honored in all my life," remarked Parker after the graduation ceremony.
It's been a long time coming for Rudy. In 1951, Rudy left Alexandria High to join the Navy and fight in the Korean War. Aboard the U.S.S. Oriskany, he never got to graduate from high school at Alexandria High.
"There was a different attitude with the people back then. Americanism, fly the flag. It was a totally different than what we have today," said American Legion Post 904 Commander Richard Drake. who got to award Rudy with his diploma.
Rudy of course, had already gone 82 years without a diploma, but it wasn't until Rudy was preparing arrangements for when he dies, that he really realized there was one last thing missing: A high school diploma.
That's where Rudy's sister came in. Without Rudy's knowledge, Glory Martel started looking for a way to get Rudy his diploma. She found a New York law called Operation Recognition. It allows vets to be recognized if they left school to fight in certain wars. After working with the school, American Legion, and the state to get everything arranged for Saturday, she told Rudy about what she had set up.
"I thought he might say, 'what are you doing that for'. I didn't think he would like it, but I was fooled, it turned out wonderful," said Glory Martel, Rudy's sister.
"Now, she asked me, and I says 'what are you talking about.' Well, she says, 'they got this thing for people that dropped out of school for certain reasons' and you can earn your diploma,'" said Rudy about his sister.
When Rudy received his diploma, the first one in the Class of 2013, and 61 years late, he broke down in tears. The diploma meant everything, even after everything.
"At that time, you didn't need it. I might of got on to higher things if I would of had it. There's nothing more honorable than having a high school diploma," said Rudy.
So the next time somebody says, 'it's just a handshake and a piece of paper', think of Rudy. He went through a war, had a couple careers, a few children, and a love or two. But that handshake and piece of paper, that's all he ever wanted.
Click on the picture above to see Asa Stackel's story that aired on 7News this Weekend.
Monday, March 10, 2014, Watertown, NY